Info Service on Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge (Jun14/03)
24 June 2014
Third World Network
friends and colleagues,
Below is an open letter from the International Support Centre for
Sustainable Tourism, Tourism Investigation and Monitoring Team (TIM-Team)
and Third World Network to the Parties to the Convention on Biologicial
Diversity and the Executive Secretary of the Convention.
Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice
is meeting in Montreal this week and the letter addresses concerns
with regard to the social and biodiversity impacts of tourism, calling
on the Parties to review the Convention's guidelines on tourism and
With best wishes,
Third World Network
TOURISM & BIODIVERSITY
OPEN LETTER TO THE CBD PARTIES AND SECRETARIAT
June 24, 2014
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
Mr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Dear Parties and Mr. Ferreira de Souza Dias,
We urge you to bring tourism back onto the CBD agenda, for thorough
review. With several environmental and social crises converging,
the rational and moral frame for tourism has shifted substantially
in the past decade - requiring us to revisit provisions for sustainable
consumption and use.
When tourism entered the CBD agenda, through the Ministerial Roundtable
at the Conference of Parties in Bratislava in 1998, there was a spirit
of collaboration enabling productive dialogue to start between U.N.
agencies, Parties and NGOs, as well as Indigenous Peoples and local
communities experiencing firsthand the benefits and costs of tourism.
It is crucial that a collaborative approach to evaluation is revitalized,
during the Twelfth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP12),
to develop strategies responsive to research on tourism impacts, from
a full spectrum of community contexts.
The first civil society submissions to the CBD on tourism, at COP4,
highlighted the urgent need for harm avoidance (attached). Between
initial submissions in 1998 and the U.N. International Year of Ecotourism
in 2002, civil society groups provided extensive technical input to
the CBD process, delivering findings from community-based research
internationally. This research identified the perils of policies
for tourism growth. It also suggested strategies to tackle rapidly
accelerating tourism problems, such as those related to climate change.
Since then, involved NGOs have continued to evaluate the impacts of
tourism on cultural and biological diversity worldwide. This
ongoing research by civil society groups is crucial for developing
a precautionary approach for the tourism sector. Several longstanding
NGOs have collaborated, developing extensive archives of data on national
and supra-national tourism plans (for example, ‘sustainable,’ ‘green,’
and/or ‘eco’ tourism) versus actual outcomes of tourism. Consistently,
research shows a vast disparity between projected benefits and associated
costs: a continuum of unsustainable trade-offs. Tourism involves an
acute flow of urbanization - bringing heavy strains on the biosphere,
plus pronounced consumerism at the ecosystem level.
With concern, we note that many NGOs and local communities (notably,
those that are specifically concerned with tourism-related issues)
lost faith in the tourism workplan of the CBD, during the process
to advance guidelines for tourism. Although the CBD Secretariat
and UNEP strived to initiate an inclusive and representative process,
some interest groups came to exercise disproportionate influence over
its eventual shape and outcomes - despite their lack of experience
within the destination communities, cultural landscapes, and ecosystems
most affected (for example, biodiversity ‘hotspots’ of the global
South). Consequently, mechanisms intended to improve tourism
policy and practice suffered an early collapse of credibility.
Since then, the CBD guidelines on tourism and biodiversity have been
viewed as not only lacking relevance among affected Indigenous Peoples
and other local communities, but also potentially harmful, by tourism
NGOs monitoring human rights and environmental performance across
We are optimistic that the spirit of collaboration and principle of
inclusion characterizing the early CBD process on tourism can be restored,
in order to bring the tourism sector into alignment with the CBD objectives
and policies. The CBD offers a promising framework for addressing
the governance complexities of tourism, across sectors - if we work
together to develop congruent implementation mechanisms, integrating
applicable international law.
In light of the deepening ecological crises worldwide, cultivating
broad political and grassroots support for a renewed CBD process on
tourism is a very urgent matter, requiring our collective wisdom,
research, and practice-based insights. We urge a thorough review of
the CBD guidelines on tourism and their application, through
an inclusive, balanced, grounded, and transparent process. The
process needs to engage not only those civil society groups involved
from the outset, but also other tourism NGOs and local authorities
offering perspective from long-term, community-based research and
practice. Dissent should be welcomed as a sign of a healthy
process and an indicator of issues meriting careful reflection.
A full spectrum of research and experiential knowledge must inform
It is with a sense of deep concern that we appeal for the outdated,
largely disregarded guidelines on tourism to receive fresh scrutiny.
The volume of tourism globally, and its aggregate footprint, have
breached sustainability thresholds. Tourism growth now compromises
multiple biological processes supporting life on Earth; for example,
climate, groundwater, marine cycles, and soil - with far reaching
consequences, including food security. ‘Green’ variations of tourism
can be particularly problematic and misleading, penetrating fragile
ecosystems, stressing endangered species, and triggering culture loss;
often, while imbedding poverty, as a basis for profit margins.
We are gravely concerned that harm has become normalized in both the
tourism industry and its ‘development’ offshoots. Damage to
marine and coastal zones is just one illustration, among many, of
the serious repercussions of tourism.
We are calling for a review process that is both rational and moral,
to avert further harm from tourism, before emerging tourism markets
cause exponential and irreversible harm across generations.
Today’s children and future generations deserve not only justice but
also an ethic of care, assuring their well-being and flourishing.
Our hope lies in your leadership to fundamentally reorient the CBD
workplan on tourism, directing all interest groups to revisit the
core values and imperatives of sustainability, in keeping with the
1992 Rio Principles and the Aichi Targets. Through disciplined
adherence to these principles we can co-create a focussed process,
for safe and responsible outcomes.
We look forward to supporting your endeavours to develop a meaningful
engagement strategy on tourism - prioritizing tourism as an unresolved,
cross-cutting agenda item of the CBD, pivotal to social change.
Alison Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org)
International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism
Anita Pleumarom (email@example.com)
Tourism Investigation and Monitoring Team (TIM-Team)
Chee Yoke Ling (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Third World Network
Annex: NGO Statement on Tourism, COP4, Bratislava (1998)
Meeting of the Conference of the Parties
Convention on Biological Diversity
NGO JOINT STATEMENT ON THE MINISTERIAL PROPOSAL FOR
GLOBAL GUIDELINES ON SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
Chair, thank you for this opportunity to present a statement with
regard to agenda item 12.2 from NGOs concerned about the Proposal
for Global Guidelines on Sustainable Tourism.
welcome the Ministerial Roundtable initiative as a demonstration of
global political support for the crucial issues facing biodiversity
conservation. While we would like to see future Ministerial
discussions align more closely with the formal agenda of the COP,
we welcome the Roundtable=s consideration of cross sectoral issues
affecting biodiversity conservation.
the Roundtable discussion focused largely on sustainable tourism,
we welcome the proposal to have an initiative addressing tourism and
biodiversity which involves indigenous and local communities, the
private sector, and NGOs. We view tourism as a critical cross-sectoral
issue with far reaching impacts on biological and cultural diversity.
The complexity of tourism, i.e. its ability to impact for better or
worse on almost every component of the host community and ecosystem,
poses one of the greatest sectoral challenges within the Convention
on Biological Diversity.
therefore support the Ministers=consensus that action be taken to
make concrete headway on this matter. It is well documented
that tourism can have serious adverse impacts on biodiversity and
indigenous and local communities; this being the case, we feel that
the sustainable tourism concept should be thoroughly evaluated to
identify its appropriate use.
expressing our support for this initiative for global tourism guidelines,
we want to convey certain concerns as to the content and process.
These concerns include:
lack of clarity as to whether the discussion is oriented to:
- guiding the direction of future tourism development only or also
facilitating a reform of existing tourism practices
- facilitating current growth rates in the industry or setting precautionary
possibility of the process facilitating the expansion of tourism
in indigenous homelands and sensitive ecosystems that are
potential for community participation in the initiative to be limited
to marginal consultation, as has already occurred with many projects
billed as sustainable tourism
potential for this process to result in development priorities and
practices which do not reflect the needs of indigenous and local
potential for indigenous peoples=rights, specifically the right
to self-determination, to be infringed upon by this process
and its outputs
potential for the interests of industry to overshadow the needs
of indigenous peoples and local communities in the absence of a
genuine support system for bottom-up innovations
need for workable mechanisms for ensuring equitable benefit sharing
among involved communities
need to duly take into account the impacts of tourism-related transport
on both biodiversity and climate change.
light of these concerns, WE RECOMMEND THAT:
conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity be integrated into
the tourism sector as required in Article 6(b)
precautionary approach be maintained at every stage of the process
so that ecosystem integrity and cultural values are not compromised
be given to the definition of cultural sustainability as per the
1997 Berlin Declaration on Sustainable Tourism, with indigenous
peoples leading the process
peoples’ right to define their own development priorities, policies,
and practices be recognized, with priority support given to indigenous
tourism innovations that foster the implementation of Article 8(j)
mechanism established to carry this initiative forward allow for
the full involvement of indigenous peoples, local communities and
NGOs, with funding allocated accordingly
on “best practices” be efficiently compiled, utilizing existing
policies, strategies, and data
practices” standards be applied to current tourism enterprises before
any additional tourism developments are considered
diversity impact assessments be undertaken for all proposed policies
controls on the movement and removal of biological material by tourists
framework for local and national reporting on the initiative be
developed, with data forwarded to the Information Clearinghouse
to cooperate with the Framework Convention on Climate Change
be identified for addressing the impacts of tourism related-transport
education and awareness raising on the above issues be undertaken
at the national level as required by Article 13.
respectfully extend support to this global guidelines initiative so
long as the concerns and expertise of indigenous peoples, local communities,
and NGOs, are embraced in the process to ensure ecosystem integrity
and the conservation of biological and cultural diversity.
Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism
by the International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism with support
from the following NGOs:
Liaison Centre International, Kenya
Peoples Program, UK
for Environment & Development, Germany
Ecotropico, Latin America
Montana Experimental, Nicaragua
Institute of Public Administration, India
Peoples Biodiversity Network, Peru
Institute for Forest & Environment