The UNWTO Donors’ Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development
In 2002, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) began a project focused on “sustainable tourism” as a way to help improve the economic situations of poorer countries (also known as “Least Developed Countries”, or “LDCs”). The UNWTO is a United Nations agency devoted to studying the world tourism industry and promoting environmental and economically sustainable forms of tourism in its member countries and throughout the world. As part of its “ST-EP” program (“Sustainable Tourism as an effective tool for Eliminating Poverty”), the UNWTO has decided to focus some of its resources on developing tourism in seven wild areas, known as “Cross-border Parks and Protected Areas,” or “CPAs,” in West Africa.
The UNWTO asserts that behind oil, tourism is the single most important component of foreign exchange in many LDCs' economies. Furthermore, it is the opinion of the UNWTO that certain West African nations have particularly rich resources for the development of tourism. According to the UNWTO, therefore, careful investment in the region's tourism industry can reap economic benefits for the region's LDCs which will far outweigh the cost of the initial monies expended. In order to maximize the benefit of investments in the West African tourism industry, the UNWTO has undertaken efforts to develop sustainable tourism among ten West African countries in particular. These ten nations are Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
This UNWTO conference will serve to bring together UNWTO staff, tourism officials from the ten countries listed above, and representatives of donor and investor organizations in order to secure new sources of funding for sustainable tourism projects in West African CPAs. Private individuals are also expected to participate in the conference. At the close of the conference, it is anticipated that the UNWTO will have been able to prepare a “short list” of potential donors for these projects, along with donor commitments during the first five years these projects will be implemented. Projects will be based on a list of potential investment opportunities researched by the UNWTO in collaboration with several other tourism and development organizations. Sample projects to be funded will include programs to give micro-loans to citizens who wish to participate in the tourism industry, and efforts to provide training and equipment to prevent poaching in CPAs. The conference will also serve to facilitate the coordination of donor goals and requirements with the concerns of the West African nations who will be responsible for administering the relevant CPAs, and to provide information to all parties on the environmental benefits of sustainable tourism in the region.
The conference will be held in Dakar, Senegal on May 27 and 28, 2011. The morning of May 27 will feature welcome speeches by the Minister of Tourism of Senegal, the Secretary-General of the UNWTO, and Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, all of which will serve to highlight the importance of the conference to all parties. Next will be presentations of the investment opportunities researched by the UNWTO, and, after lunch, presentations by potential donors and investors explaining their interests and requirements for projects in which they may become involved. These presentations will be followed by workshops to facilitate interactions and negotiations between donors and country representatives. On May 28, UNWTO staff will meet with donors and country representatives to collect information on the project commitments that have been made. These commitments will then be presented in the final session of the conference.