At the just-concluded 59th meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Africa tourism was shining. Ministers from 49 countries attended the event at the legendary Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel in the Ethiopian capital.
Among the participants was Ambassador Madam Dho Young-shim. Madam Dho has devoted 11 years of her life to Africa. She is, however, from South Korea and is the chairperson in charge of the UNWTO- ST-EP Program. ST-EP stands for Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty Initiative which has projects around the globe. Madam Dho’s latest initiative was the opening of 180 libraries in poor areas in Africa. This has been seen as a dynamic tool for community development and empowerment. This contribution to education is done through the support of children at schools, and through the promotion of reading, music, sports, and health, etc. The libraries are also equipped with Braille reading for blind children.
How it started
At its Millennium Summit in 2000, the United Nations identified poverty as one of the biggest global challenges and set forth as one of its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015. The World Tourism Organization has responded to this challenge and opportunity by launching the ST-EP Initiative, which was announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.
Despite the special position of tourism in poverty alleviation, often poor segments of the population in developing countries and least-developed countries do not benefit from the economic impact of tourism. The UNWTO Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty Initiative promotes poverty alleviation through the provision of assistance to sustainable development projects. The initiative focuses on enhancing the organization’s long-standing work to encourage sustainable tourism – social, economic, and ecological – with activities that specifically alleviate poverty, deliver development, and create jobs for people living on less than a dollar a day. UNWTO views the ST-EP Initiative as an effective tool to make a tangible contribution to the MDGs. Tourism can play a significant role, particularly for goals 1, 3, 7, and 8, addressing extreme poverty and hunger, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and global partnership, respectively.
At the 2005 UN World Summit in New York, UNWTO convened meetings with governments, industry, UN agencies, and civil society leaders on how to harness tourism most effectively for the MDGs. These discussions culminated in the adoption of the Declaration on “Harnessing Tourism for the Millennium Development Goals,” an important declaration that put on record the recognition of tourism as a major force for socio-economic development and an effective contributor to the MDGs. The declaration calls on governments, international and bilateral development agencies, corporations, and civil society, to further their efforts in support of the tourism sector through mobilizing additional resources, affording tourism greater priority in development assistance programs and poverty alleviation strategies, and promoting public-private partnerships and good governance.
To alleviate poverty elimination and community empowerment through education, 180 libraries opened in poor areas as tools for community development and empowerment, as well as other activities based on the Korean development experience and know-how.
The Myusung Christian Medical Centre in Ethiopia started 10 years ago and has grown to the point of handing and giving relief to thousands of people in need every year. Conducted by Mr. Henry Moon, the property includes the Medical college annex.
Participants at the Africa conference had a chance to watch a proud Ambassador Dho showing videos demonstrating the success of ST-EP.
The ST-EP Initiative and projects worldwide have generated employment for locals in tourism enterprises. As of January 2017, some 120 ST-EP projects have been approved for implementation in 45 countries and 3 regions. Additionally, 100 projects have been successfully completed, including the Millennium Villages as a tourism destination.
Madam Dho’s eyes light up when she talks about Africa and ST-EP. But Africa has its challenges. “Africa receives only 3 percent of the global tourism flow per year,” said Najib Balala, Kenya Tourism Cabinet Secretary. “Africans need to walk together to re-brand the continent. The country is endowed with the greatest tourism potential, and today, its economy is the fastest growing by an average of 8 percent – a tremulous push with major power in the sector.” Mr. Balala took over the chair of the UNWTO Commission of Africa.
Ambassador Dho is also a candidate for the upcoming UNWTO election for a new Secretary General.