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Green light for the transformation of WTO into a specialized agency of the United Nations

The World Tourism Organization may soon gain more international status and recognition as a specialized agency of the UN…

The World Tourism Organization may soon gain more international status and recognition as a specialized agency of the UN. The Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC) adopted a resolution by consensus on 24th July 2002 that has opened the way for WTO<.> to become a specialized agency of the United Nations Organization. The resolution provides for a negotiations process that could lead to the transformation of WTO.



The resolution adopted by ECOSOC authorise the President to appoint members of the Council to a Committee to Negotiate a relationship agreement between the UNO and WTO. The draft relationship agreement has to be submitted to ECOSOC for consideration at its substantive session of 2003. Following a positive conclusion of negotiations the new status of WTO would require a final approval by both the UN General Assembly and the General Assembly of WTO.



The Secretary-General of WTO Mr. Francesco Frangialli stated in his address to ECOSOC Members that the WTO transformation from related into a specialized agency of the UN will constitute a remarkable step forward, which can be characterized by three words: recognition, effectiveness, and impetus. Recognition, because it acknowledges the fact that travel, leisure and tourism constitute a powerful part of modern society that cannot be ignored. Effectiveness, because, due to tourism’s multidisciplinary nature, many agencies and organs of the system are involved in its expansion in the performance of their own specific responsibilities. Transforming the WTO into a specialized agency would mean greater coherence by increasing the synergies among those different stakeholders and enhancing the coordination carried out by ECOSOC. And impetus – because we expect to achieve greater visibility that would prompt governments as well as multilateral institutions, especially the Bretton Woods institutions, to pay increased attention to an industry that brings development, said Mr. Frangialli.



Tourism has become one of the dominant activities at the beginning of the 21st century. In 2001, in spite of the first crisis to affect the industry, 693 million visitors traveled from one country to another. They spent some 462 billion dollars, making tourism one of the top categories of international trade. And this figure, impressive as it is, does not even include expenditures on air transport, or the activity generated by domestic travel in the different countries, which is bigger still, underlined Mr. Frangialli.



The World Tourism Organization was established in 1975 as a result of the transformation, of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO) into an intergovernmental institution. WTO-UN relationship began with an agreement approved by the United Nations General Assembly and the General Assembly of WTO in 1977. Since 1976, WTO has been an executing agency of the United Nations Development Programme and, in this capacity, it carries out a large majority of the tourism development projects it finances around the world. WTO also has an observer status in ECOSOC. At the internal level, WTO’s staff comes under the common system, and in 1996 the Madrid-based organization joined the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

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