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Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples
24 August 2023
Submissions now online (See below)
Pursuant to Resolution 51/16 of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will dedicate his annual report to the General Assembly on “Tourism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism statistics are now approaching pre-pandemic levels. Tourism is an essential driver of development for many countries that may lead to economic, social, and cultural growth. However, according to reports from Indigenous Peoples, tourism projects are often designed and implemented without respect for their rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; free prior and informed consent; as well as economic, social and cultural rights, such as access to water and sanitation.
The Special Rapporteur identified this theme as a focus for his study after receiving reports of violations of human rights in relation to tourism activities, including those associated with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, national parks, luxury resorts, sporting events and other tourism projects. The development of tourism infrastructure and projects has on many occasions caused eviction of Indigenous Peoples from their lands; contaminated natural resources; threatened livelihoods and restricted access to sacred places and resources.
Tourism projects may bring violence against Indigenous women and children, sex trafficking, militarization and labour exploitation. The cultural expressions of Indigenous Peoples are often highlighted as a distinct feature to attract tourism. This may risk the appropriation and commodification of Indigenous knowledge and tangible and intangible cultural property.
In recent decades, community-based approaches to tourism, such as ecotourism and ethnocultural tourism, have become increasingly popular as a sustainable development approach. If implemented under the Indigenous Peoples’ human rights framework, community-based tourism projects can provide socio-economic and cultural benefits for Indigenous Peoples and the rest of society. This includes economic development; strengthening of political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions of Indigenous Peoples; employment; education and training; revitalization of Indigenous languages, culture, and knowledge; biodiversity restoration; and other opportunities.
United Nation human rights mechanisms and specialized agencies have provided some guidance on this topic. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples addressed tourism and cultural heritage in its report on the “Promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural heritage” (A/HRC/30/53). The World Committee on Tourism Ethics of the UN World Tourism Organization issued its Recommendations on “Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism” in 2019 and has developed matrixes and measurements for sustainable tourism. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and IUCN have also published guidelines on sustainable tourism. Finally, the non-profit sector has provided guidance, standards, and certification on sustainable tourism and ecotourism.
The role of Indigenous Peoples in tourism must be understood and addressed from the framework of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international and regional human rights instruments. These international legal standards recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to lands, territories and resources, self-determination, cultural heritage and participation in decision-making, all of which form the basis of their collective identity and their physical, economic and cultural survival.
The report will review the ways in which tourism both negatively impacts and positively benefits Indigenous Peoples by examining the role of States, international organizations and the private sector in developing tourism facilities, including resorts, amusement parks, sporting events, World Heritage Sites, game reserves, national parks and other protected areas.
The report will highlight examples of Indigenous-led tourism ventures, as well as best practices undertaken by States and international organizations to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights in this context, for instance, by obtaining their free, prior and informed consent before authorizing tourist activities on their lands.
The Special Rapporteur, therefore, wishes to receive inputs by way of response to the questions below, that will inform his report to be presented at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in October 2023. The Special Rapporteur requests submissions from Member States and inter-governmental entities, UN agencies, funds and programs, Indigenous Peoples and organizations, civil society actors, humanitarian and development organizations, national human rights institutions, business representatives and other relevant stakeholders, to contribute to the preparation of the report.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in receiving inputs on any or all of the following issues, including recent case studies and specific examples of best practices led by Indigenous Peoples as well as initiatives taken by States and international organizations.
 UNWTO World Tourism Barometer and Statistical Annex, January 2020. In January 2020, international tourism was increasing in all regions as overnight arrivals reached 1.5 billion.
 UNWTO World Tourism Barometer and Statistical Annex, November 2022
 TZA 3/2021; THA 4/2021; THA 4/2020
 UGA5/2022; TZA 2/2019
 NPL 1/2021; BGD 8/2020
 MEX 11/2020
 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Managing tourism and biodiversity - User’s manual on the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development (2007), Montreal, https://www.cbd.int/doc/programmes/tourism/tourism-manual-en.pdf; Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Tourism Supporting Biodiversity - A Manual on applying the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development (2015), Montreal, https://www.cbd.int/tourism/doc/tourism-manual-2015-en.pdf; Spenceley, A., Snyman, S. & Eagles, P., Guidelines for tourism partnerships and concessions for protected areas: Generating sustainable revenues for conservation and development (2017).
 Eagles, Paul F.J., McCool, Stephen F. and Haynes, Christopher D.A., Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas: Guidelines for Planning and Management (2002), IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
 Among others International Ecotourism Society, Global Sustainable Tourism Council.