Poverty eradication has been addressed by the United Nations Millennium Declaration as one of the most compelling challenges of the 21st century. Face of poverty has its worst exposure in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which form the weakest and poorest segment of the international community.

With over 600 million people, the LDCs face formidable developmental obstacles. The globalisation process has further deepened their vulnerability. These challenges could be met resolutely through effective national and international policies that should be anchored more firmly in long-term development strategies aimed at the effective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action (POA) adopted in 2001 for the development of these countries during the first decade of the new millennium.

The Brussels Programme is different from the earlier programmes for LDCs in terms of its objectives, orientation, scope and follow-up arrangements. The basic objective of the Brussels POA is to achieve, in respect of LDCs, substantial progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of halving poverty by 2015 and promoting sustainable development. Poverty eradication, gender equality, employment, governance, capacity-building, special problems of landlocked and small island developing countries, as well as special problems faced by least developed countries affected by conflict, has been singled out in the Brussels POA as cross-cutting priority issues.

The POA focuses on seven specific commitments made by the LDCs and their development partners: (i) fostering a people-centred policy framework; (ii) good governance at the national and international levels; (iii) building human and institutional capacities; (iv) building productive capacities to make globalisation work for LDCs;
(v) enhancing the role of trade and development; (vi) reducing vulnerability and protecting the environment; (vii) mobilizing financial resources.

The Brussels Programme and Sustainable Tourism

The POA, in commitment 4 focussing on "Building productive capacities to make globalisation work for LDCs" devotes a section on sustainable tourism. The rationale behind this is that international tourism is one the few economic sectors through which LDCs have managed to increase their participation in the global economy. Tourism is the primary source of foreign exchange earning in all LDCs, except three oil producing countries.

Tourism has been one of the significant tools and means to encourage dynamic economic activities in the LDCs. For the 49 Least Developed Countries, tourism is emerging as an important development opportunity, and they are pressing for tourism to be recognised as a priority development sector. Also, in addition to the economic objective, it is a way to build culture of peace that is, I believe, a necessary step toward a sustainable poverty reduction strategy.

In the Brussels Programme, the LDCs have committed to the following lines:

- Promoting a climate conducive to tourism;
- Recognizing the potential of the tourism sector in national development strategies and ensuring effective participation of domestic tourism authorities in the national decision-making process;
- Encouraging potential investors by guiding them through analysis of the most desirable tourism product specialization;
- Taking measures to facilitate local tourism operators' access to and participation in global Information and distribution systems;
- Formulating strategies to achieve the most beneficial linkages between tourism and land, sea and, particularly, air transport.

On the other side, the development partners of the LDCs have committed to:

- Support the LDCs efforts;
- Encourage investment in the tourism industry through increased access to finance and the development of local human resources;
- Enhance their economic efficiency, competitiveness and the sustainability of tourism operations in particular by assisting their efforts to access and participate in global distribution systems and use appropriate technology;
- Consider providing financial, technical and/or other forms of assistance to support LDCs efforts to strengthen their national capacities in the field of tourism.

LDCs and their development partners agree that tourism can be a powerful engine of employment creation, poverty eradication, reduction of gender inequality and protection of the natural and cultural heritage.

Tourism and Poverty Reduction

Strategies for "pro-poor" tourism have been found to be effective in unlocking opportunities for the poor within tourism sector. World Tourism Organization (WTO) in its report on "Tourism and Poverty Alleviation" released last year at the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development, incorporated the outcome of four studies that demonstrate how partnerships at the local level between the private sector, government and poor producers can significantly raise incomes for the informal sector; how government policy can encourage the private sector to adopt poverty reduction practices; and how the potential for tour operators and local communities can increase the impact of tourism in reducing poverty. These case studies show that affirmative action can make a difference to the poor. WTO has affirmed in this report that tourism can be harnessed to bring local economic development in forms that will assist in the reduction of poverty. It also asserted that poverty reduction criteria should play a more prominent role in decision-making about tourism development. Of course, it goes without saying that the successful development of pro-poor tourism initiatives involves a strong commercial orientation and the capacity to engage with a wide range of stakeholders - government, the private sector, the poor, civil society and donors.

Eighty per cent of the world's poor, those surviving on less than a dollar (US) per day, live in 12 countries. In 11 of these countries, tourism is significant and growing. The 49 LDCs had 5.1 million international arrivals in 2000, achieving an increase of nearly 75% in the decade.

Here I would like to make a special mention of the joint project by WTO and UNCTAD - called ST-EP (Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty) - aimed at implementing a new framework to assist developing countries, particularly LDCs, in poverty reduction through tourism. This concept is being developed for action in 2003 and beyond, engaging all stakeholders. This initiative has the political support of all
49 LDCs whose Ministers gathered in Gran Canaria, Spain, in March 2001, to discuss the contribution which tourism could make to development. The Canary Islands Declaration on Tourism in the LDCs is the outcome of that gathering.

It is also noteworthy that the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, at its seventh session, urged governments "to maximise the potential of tourism for eradicating poverty by developing appropriate strategies in co-operation with all major groups, indigenous and local communities". In this context, we need to remember that tourism offers better labour-intensive and small-scale opportunities than all other sectors except agriculture. Tourism also creates important opportunities to diversify the local economy, offering the poor more avenues of employment.

Movement for a Culture of Peace

Poverty reduction remains at the centre of the holistic approach expressed in the Brussels Programme for LDCs and Millennium Development Goals. I strongly believe that culture of peace has a crucial role as its promotion makes poverty reduction sustainable.

We need to create a movement that enhances a culture of peace and non-violence in the world and promotes dialogue among civilizations. A movement that ensures that amity would replace atrocity, harmony would overcome hatred and stability would remove suspicion.

As the Secretary-General of the United Nations has said, "the dialogue among civilizations must be peaceful. It must occur not just between societies but also within them. It must be a dialogue of mutual respect, based on a framework of shared values - values such as those found in the United Nations Charter, like equality, justice and dignity - within which different traditions can co-exist. Such a dialogue can serve as an inspiration to all humanity. It can help us learn from each other. It can help us rise above the intolerance and conflicts that have blighted our history and undermined human progress."

The objective of the culture of peace is the empowerment of people. It contributes effectively to the overcoming of authoritarian structures and also exploitation, through democratic participation. It works against poverty and inequality and promotes development. It celebrates diversity, advances understanding and tolerance and reduces inequality between men and women. We regard the culture of peace as an effective expedient to minimize and prevent violence and conflict in the present day world and, thereby, create a supportive environment for sustainable development.
Why do I put such emphasis on culture of peace? Three reasons:
First, it targets individuals. There cannot be true peace unless the mind is at peace. Second, it brings together all actors. In addition to States and international organizations, actions to promote culture of peace can be undertaken by community and religious leaders, parents, family, teachers, artists, professors, journalists and students … people from all walks of life. Third, it sets its goals not on the principle of an eye for an eye but on tolerance, solidarity and dialogue to settle differences and heal wounds.

I believe that the culture of peace and non-violence is receiving wider and wider global acceptance. Through the efforts of the UN, and especially the UNESCO; through projects implemented nationally and regionally through declaratory statements by regional organizations; through conferences - like this one, symposiums and workshops held all over the world; and through widespread involvement of the civil society, we are witnessing the movement gather momentum.

Non-violence can truly flourish when the world is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred. When women and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure and fulfilling life. Until then, each and every one of us would have to contribute - collectively and individually - to build peace through non-violence. For the success of our movement, what we need is a 'grand alliance for a culture of peace and non-violence'. We have to succeed together or together we shall perish.


In conclusion, I would like to underscore that on one hand, tourism not only provides materials benefits for the poor, but can also bring cultural pride and a sense of ownership. It, definitely, fosters culture of peace in the way that it celebrates diversity, advances understanding and tolerance. On the other, we must carefully consider the potential negative social, cultural effects of tourism. Local management and regulation can, hopefully, reduce these negatives effects, while increasing the participation of the poor and improving the distribution of the benefits.

Let me end by quoting the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan who in his address to the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly reminded the international community that 'only multilateral action can give people in the least developed countries the chance to escape the ugly misery of poverty, ignorance and disease'.

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