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Published on : Monday, May 9, 2016
The ceremony for the adoption of the agreement on the establishment of the International ST-EP Organization took place in Seoul, Republic of Korea with the presence of tourism ministers, ambassadors and senior officials from 40 countries. The event was attended by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, Kim Jongdeok, the Second Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cho Tae-yul, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai as well as the Chairperson of the ST-EP Foundation, Amb. Dho Young-shim (28 March, 2016).
On the occasion, a total of 29 countries signed the text of the Agreement that establishes the Organization. More countries are expected to join the sign-up before the beginning of the formal ratification and acceptance process.
The new International Organization results from the transformation of the UNWTO STEP Foundation into an international organization. The Foundation, based in the capital of the Republic of Korea, was launched in 2002 as a UNWTO initiative to harness the power of tourism to promote development and fight poverty, with a special focus on people living on less than a dollar a day. Hundreds of tourism professionals and government officials in developing countries benefitted from the work of the Foundation in the last decade. At its 20th session in 2013, the UNWTO General Assembly approved the transformation of the Foundation into an independent international organization to be headquartered in Korea.
The success of the ST-EP initiative was possible with the support of its partners including, among others, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, the Flemish Government as well as Macau SAR. The Government of the Republic of Korea in particular has provided its full political and financial support enabling the Foundation to implement some 115 projects in more than 40 countries.
Meeting with the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yun Byung-se, Mr. Rifai thanked the government of the Republic of Korea for its leading role in the work of ST-EP initiative. “Culture and tourism are an important part of Korea’s foreign policy” and the government will continue to support tourism initiatives both at home and abroad”, said Mr. Yun.
“Since its launch in 2002, the ST-EP Initiative has grown from strength to strength, bringing new opportunities to many around the world and contributing significantly to poverty reduction and sustainable development. Thanks to the generous support from all our partners, namely the Government of the Republic of Korea, we were able to build up a portfolio of 115 ST-EP projects around the world, benefiting more than 40 countries” said UNWTO Secretary General during the ceremony.
In his remarks, Mr. Kim Jongdeok, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, pointed out the importance of the ST-EP Organization in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Moving forward, the Republic of Korea will continue to support the International ST-EP Organization in achieving its full potential, and I humbly request our fellow countries gathered here to join us in the years to come” he said.
Under the direction of Ambassador Dho Young-shim, Chairperson of the Foundation, the new International ST-EP Organization will continue to address the challenges of poverty reduction through tourism.
On the occasion of his visit to the Republic of Korea, Mr Rifai also visited Andong, at the invitation of the Governor of the Gyeongsangbukdo Province, Kim Kwan-yong. The Province will host the 2016 Silk Road International Culture and Tourism Forum in November 2016 in the city of Gyeongju, strengthening its collaboration with UNWTO on culture and its linkages with tourism.
During his visit, Mr Rifai opened the UNWTO Asia-Pacific Executive Training Programme on Tourism Policy and Strategy (29 March to 1 April) held in Seoul. The Programme, supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea, celebrated 10th anniversary. This year’s edition, dedicated to human capital development, was attended by representatives of 21 UNWTO Member States from the region.