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Statements and speeches Special Procedures

Create child safe tourism for planet and prosperity: UN expert

World Tourism Day - 27 September 2023

26 September 2023

GENEVA (26 September 2023) – Centering people, planet and prosperity, can be better achieved when children are protected from forced labour, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, a UN expert said today. Ahead of World Tourism Day, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children Mama Fatima Singhateh, issued the following statement:

“We mark World Tourism Day on September 27 each year to raise awareness about the need for accessible tourism and this year’s theme focuses on ‘Tourism and Green Investment.’

Creating child safe tourism can reduce the risks of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in communities. Although efforts have been made at national, regional and international levels to set standards with a view to preventing and combating all forms of exploitation and abuse of children in the travel and tourism sectors, a lot more needs to be done.

Boosting competitiveness, resilience, and greening of the tourism sector must go hand in hand with responsible business practices and investments to ensure sustainable child and family support, capacity-building of care professionals, awareness raising on the rights of children and empowering communities.

Regulating and monitoring activities within the tourism sector, should include voluntourism, a phenomenon that revolves around products offered through travel and tourism markets usually for unskilled volunteers, without adequate supervision. Such actions would contribute towards preventing human rights abuses and protecting children in vulnerable situations, particularly in settings where implementation of regulations is weak and protection systems inadequate.

Governments, development partners, the international community and the private sector must actively adopt, implement, and enforce strong legislation, standards and processes for the prevention, protection and rehabilitation of child victims of human rights abuses within the tourism sector including in the online domain. This can be enhanced through innovative entrepreneurial endeavours that foster positive practices and cross-sectoral impacts.

In addition to wide sensitisation of businesses on their human rights responsibilities and of consumers to report human rights abuses, specific guidelines should be developed and information should be shared among all stakeholders in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. Law enforcement and professionals in the tourism, travel and entertainment industry must be adequately trained on monitoring and reporting on child abuse and exploitation while ensuring access to justice and accountability for child victims and survivors.

“While urging States to expeditiously ratify the UN World Tourism Organization Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, I also call upon the private sector, including investors, to engage in multi-stakeholder, collaborative, coordinated, equitable and inclusive efforts to leave no child behind in all national contexts, taking into account vulnerabilities on the basis of gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and other grounds to address all root causes in eliminating the scourge of forced labour, sexual abuse and exploitation of children.


*This statement was endorsed by Ms. Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Mr. Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises: Damilola Olawuyi (Chair), Robert McCorquodale (Vice-Chair), Fernanda Hopenhaym, Elżbieta Karska and Pichamon Yeophantong.

Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh (The Gambia) was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020. She is a trained lawyer with over 20 years of experience. Ms Singhateh has held a number of high-level positions in public service in the Gambia. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business Law from the University of Hull and has undergone numerous trainings in child rights programming, arbitration and mediation, and legislative drafting. She has drafted laws, organised and conducted numerous training sessions, delivered presentations at both national and international fora and written articles and reports on issues relating to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Antara Singh (+41 22 917 93 28 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected].

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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