Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the High-Level Meeting on Tourism and Security

Madrid, 22 January 2016


Distinguished participants,

My thanks to Dr. Taleb Rifai for inviting me to this high-level meeting on the very important topic of tourism and security.

Tourism brings people together. It can expand our perspectives and horizons, and represents a powerful force for positive change.

Tourism can also help to create jobs, fuel economic growth and sustain development.

However, the global interconnectedness that brings us closer together, of which tourism and travel are integral parts, is also extremely vulnerable to the predations of organized criminals and terrorists.

Tourists, often without their knowledge, may be lining the pockets of human traffickers and criminals exploiting child labour.

They may be contributing to the profits of drug kingpins. Innocent souvenirs may in fact be trafficked cultural artefacts, or illegal wildlife and forest products.

Such illicit activities represent enormous profits for the criminals, at great cost to the people robbed of their rights, to the cultures and ecosystems stripped of their heritage, and to the societies deprived of their development potential.

This meeting thus addresses a critical question facing us today - namely, how can we harness and expand the benefits of tourism, while safeguarding our societies?

This event follows on the Ministerial Regional Conference on Tourism and Security hosted by EL Salvador in November, which I also had the privilege of attending.

Central America has taken a leading role in highlighting tourism as a positive instrument to help eradicate poverty, protect the environment and improve security and quality of life, especially in developing countries.

I am very glad to see that these regional experiences will be shared here in Madrid.

Tourism's  ability to contribute to development is an especially timely topic as the international community has launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development this year.

Together with our partners at UNWTO, we at UNODC believe that tourism and security should be addressed as part of Goal 16 of the SDGs, to "Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels".

Such a multi-dimensional approach requires solid criminal justice responses, rooted in human rights and the rule of law, to prevent criminals and terrorists from taking advantage of poverty, from exploiting vulnerabilities and perpetrating violence.

Organized crimes typically cross borders and involve multiple jurisdictions.

As we have seen with the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, offenders often begin their crimes online, at home. Organized criminal networks are known to use modern information and communication technologies to facilitate child abuse and exploitation.

Counter-measures clearly require specialized capacities as well as better coordination between criminal justice agencies.

That is why it is essential that effective mechanisms for cooperation within and between regions are in place.

The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols against human trafficking and migrant smuggling enable the international cooperation needed to tackle organized crime.

UNODC supports governments to take advantage of the tools provided by the Convention, as well as the UN standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice.

Moreover, we have implemented targeted projects and programmes addressing tourism and security, for example to curb demand for endangered wildlife species and illicit cultural artefacts, and to combat the sexual exploitation of children, including in the travel and tourism sectors.

We are also focusing on research and technical assistance to raise awareness and enhance national capabilities to stop ICT-facilitated child abuse and exploitation.

Together with UNWTO, we have sought to raise awareness in the tourism sector, and encourage businesses to adopt self-regulation and voluntary codes, and review their practices as well as those within their supply chains.

Along with UNWTO and UNESCO, we also launched a public information campaign to show people how their choices as responsible tourists and consumers can have a real impact on curbing organized crime.

By promoting equitable, responsible and sustainable tourism, the campaign aimed to reduce demand for products linked to crimes such as human trafficking, wildlife crime and trafficking in illicit drugs, counterfeit goods and cultural artefacts.

The campaign also sought to encourage travellers to be safe and vigilant in the face of security concerns, including the risk of terrorist threats.

As the attacks in Istanbul and Jakarta just this month and other recent incidents have made tragically clear, terrorist groups are targeting tourists, transport facilities and tourism destinations.

Moreover, the nexus of transnational organized criminal networks and terrorists poses a growing concern in many regions of the world. 

While destination countries are under pressure to ensure tourist safety and security, it is essential that both inbound and outbound States cooperate and put the necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of travelers, including by strengthening public- private partnerships.

Here too, UNODC is working to promote the cooperation and coordination needed to address these threats, including through the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Working Group on Protection of Critical Infrastructure, Vulnerable Targets, Internet and Tourism Security.

Moreover, preventing violent extremism is key to addressing terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The Secretary-General's Plan of Action released last week proposes a series of measures at the global, regional and national levels to address the drivers of violent extremism.

UNODC will work closely with our UN partners to advance this work, as well as to further enhance our support to Member States in all areas of tourism and security.

This meeting thus offers a useful forum for discussing how we can better confront organized crime and terrorism, while at the same time promote responsible and sustainable tourism to support development, in the framework of the SDGs.

I am very much looking forward to hearing your ideas. UNODC, as ever, stands ready to support you.

Thank you.