GFEMS joins tourism sector in presenting united front at UN Forum to tackle human rights issues

GFEMS joined representatives from across the travel and tourism industry as they come together at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva to call for collaborative actions to end human trafficking, forced labour and the sexual exploitation of children and share their initiatives that tackle key challenges associated with human rights issues.

The United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights will be the first time the sector has gathered to discuss possible solutions to these shared challenges before a United Nations audience.

The travel and tourism industry has rapidly expanded in recent years, with international tourist arrivals increasing from 528 million in 2005 to 1,323 million in 2017. Human trafficking, and sexual exploitation of children affect the travel and tourism industry and no country is immune to this ever-growing risk. However, the industry is also in a unique position to identify the most vulnerable - and to prevent these breaches of human rights.

At the meeting, experts from non-profit organisations will stand shoulder to shoulder with senior leaders from global travel and tourism companies, united in their shared commitment to tackling these crimes which have a direct impact on the tourism industry.

Speaking before the event, Madhu Rajesh, Director of ITP said: “ITP convenes the world’s leading hotel groups for collaborative action on these critical human rights issues, and in doing so we create practical tools and programmes that help the hotel industry as a whole move further and faster than they can working individually. For example, we’ve united our membership around support for ITP’s Principles on Forced Labour, and encourage their adoption by the wider industry. Through our work, we aim to convene key stakeholders from the public and private sector and encourage cross-sector collaboration on this vital issue.”

“As the reach of global tourism expands, so too do opportunities for those who travel to harm children by sexually exploiting them,” said Theo Noten, Programme Manager, ECPAT Netherlands. “The travel and tourism industry has a key role to play in keeping children safe. Together with business leaders, especially from the travel industry, we call upon the private sector and governments to protect children and meet the commitments made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. No child should be left behind!”

In preparation of the event, Mark Ehrlich, Vice President, Global Compliance and Privacy at Hilton declared “At Hilton, we are working across our value chain to bring attention to human trafficking risks with a 2030 goal of eradicating all forms of forced labor and sexual exploitation. We’ve been proud signatories of the ECPAT Code since 2011 and we are proactive supporters of ITP’s Human Rights Goals and Forced Labour Principles. We look forward to continuing to engage our peers and business partners in these important areas.”

Sara Beatty