15 Years of the UNWTO World Tourism Network on Child Protection: A Compilation of Good Practices
Although it is widely recognized that tourism is not the cause of child exploitation, it can aggravate the problem when parts of its infrastructure, such as transport networks and accommodation facilities, are exploited by child abusers for nefarious ends. Additionally, many other factors that contribute to abuse such as poverty, social exclusion, or a lack of socio-economic opportunities are being manipulated by perpetrators, and may thus
spawn lucrative markets for prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour.
The UNWTO’s stance on this issue is outlined in the Organization’s core policy document, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a roadmap for responsible and sustainable tourism development, adopted in 1999 by the General Assembly of UNWTO and acknowledged by that of United Nations in 2001. Article 2 of the Code explicitly states that “the exploitation of human beings in any form, particularly sexual, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of tourism”
However, while tourism infrastructure can be misused for illicit ends, it can also be reclaimed as a force to fight this same exploitation. Tourism’s investment in development and poverty alleviation schemes, CSR policies and strategies, the provision of decent work, the training of tourism workers and, crucially, awareness-raising among tourism professionals and tourists alike are invaluable weaponry in the battle against the exploitation of children.
The UNWTO strongly promotes this kind of initiatives through its World Tourism Network on Child Protection (hereafter referred to as “the Network”). This open-ended network constitutes a global multi-stakeholder platform gathering governments, international organisations, NGOs, tourism industry groups and media associations.
From its foundation in 1997 to 2007, it was known as the Task Force for the Protection of Children
in Tourism, focusing on what is commonly known as “child sex tourism”. From 2007 onwards, the Task Force has broadened its mission to contribute to the prevention of all forms of exploitation of children that may occur in the tourism sector, i.e. sexual exploitation, child labour and trafficking.