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LETTER FROM THE UNEP TOURISM PROGRAMME COORDINATOR 

[DATED: 8 September 2000]

Dear colleagues, some of whom I met at the Berlin Workshop in March 2000, just before the ITB,
 
  As you may know, UNEP and WTO-The World Tourism Organization, are mandated   by the UN ( Resolution 53/200 ) to organize a number of events and   activities around the International Year of Ecotourism, the most
important   of which ( at the IGO - Inter-governmental Organizations level) is the May   2002 World Ecotourism Summit in Quebec, Canada. A significant number of organizations, governmental, private and non-governmental, are already   planning events and activities on the subject, and some are already   collaborating with UNEP on general coordination.
 
  Given my previous experience in an international NGO, I'm fully aware of  the  potential, limitations and shortcomings of the presently promoted  definition  of ecotourism, and I've seen both very poor and some good examples of the   concept being put into practice by some communities, industry  entrepreneurs   and governments. UNEP is also totally aware of the serious issues being  put   up for discussion around the concept, such as:
  - land tenure and control of the ecotourism development process by host   communities,
  - efficiency and fairness of the current concept of protected areas for   protection of biological and cultural diversity
  - indigenous and traditional rights in areas suitable for ecotourism   development,   - transparency and proper accountability of development agencies' and   governmental investment in ecotourism projects,  among many others.

 
  For UNEP in general and for me and my colleagues in particular, the  occasion   of the International Year of Ecotourism should be used to assess what is,  or   can be, what is currently called ecotourism, rather than only a  promotional   event for UN member governments, for the private sector and for recipients   of development aid. No previous agenda should be set. It's natural for a   concept such as ecotourism to evolve naturally, and there is no doubt that   some concepts change, other are set to be substituted for other, more  useful  and comprehensive, ones. Over the next months ( until the end of the year  2000), UNEP and WTO will contact the Quebecois government to detail the  event process, and we will produce documents that will outline what we see  as the IGO-level strategy for the Year, including activities and liaisons  with other stakeholders. This document may be ready in draft version by
 the end of September, and we could share it with interested parties.
 
  I'd like to consult you, and other organizations you may feel that have  points to raise or experiences to share on the subject of ecotourism, to make sure we use the events around the IYE, the resources and people dedicated to it, and the venues opened for this discussion, to produce more clarity of concepts on the issue, and generally useful  conclusions. We  would  like to explore ways for IGOs and NGO/PO networks to collaborate in setting  up fruitful debate around the issue and coordinate agendas while  respecting  the diversity of objectives and opinions. At this point, these thoughts are  not yet an institutional position, but rather a more personal vision I'd  like to share with you. Please keep in touch, advise me if you would like  to  open communication networks to discuss this, and suggest collaborative ways  to work from now until May 2002 and beyond. A number of NGOs such as Tourism
 Concern, Oekologischer Tourismus in Europa, Conservation International, IUCN  and WWF, apart from the International Ecotourism Society, are invited to attend a preparatory meeting for the IYE with UNEP and WTO in Madrid in  February 2001, and we'd like to make sure they represent as broad a spectrum of interested parties as possible. We look forward to your thoughts and to working together with you.

Best regards,
 
Oliver Hillel
Tourism Programme Coordinator
United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
  Production and Consumption Unit
  Tour Mirabeau, 39-43 Quai Andre Citroen
  75739 Paris - Cedex 15, France
  Tel. 33 1 44 37 76 21, Fax 33 1 44 37 14 74
  www.unepie.org/tourism/home.html

 


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