PEaCE conducted a Follow-Up and Action-Planning Workshop with key stakeholders in travel and tourism representing the public, private and non-governmental sectors on January 22, 2018, based on the outcomes of National Consultation on Advancing Responsible Business Practices for Child Protection from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism held on December 12, 2017 at Hotel Galadari, Colombo in Sri Lanka. This consultation was a noteworthy achievement by PEaCE in the recent past especially because of the practical outcomes as a result of the solid way-forward plan. PEaCE received valuable support from ECPAT International and Terre des Hommes Nederland to conduct this consultation.
Report of the consultation is available here.
The primary objective of this national consultation was to establish specific commitments to address the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT), following the recommendations of the Global Study and contributing to the achievement of the targets set out in Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. ‘Specific commitments’ in this context means responsible and ethical business practices with zero tolerance for all forms of violence, especially the sexual exploitation of children within the industry. This also requires a strong regulatory and administrative framework that urges corporate stakeholders to adhere their business and corporate practices to this responsibility. However, the workshop never implied the idea that tourism is a ‘bad’ sphere where children are vulnerable to abuse. Rather, it was solely dependent upon the concept of ‘sustainable tourism’ that not only provides a safe shelter to children but also makes a qualitative contribution towards the national economy. Fifty nine stakeholders representing leading hotels and travel organisations, government authorities including Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and NGOs participated in the consultation. There were also prominent regionally and internationally known organisations such as ECPAT International, International Labour Organisation (ILO), South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) and SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry among the participants.
This consultation was designed as the next major step in the global efforts to maintain momentum garnered internationally through the Global Study. It was particularly timely, in view of the recent historical decision of the General Assembly of the UNWTO, which approved the transformation of the Code of Ethics for Tourism into an international convention, known as the UNWTO Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics. The Convention covers the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the development of sustainable tourism, providing a framework that recommends ethical and sustainable modus operandi, including the need for the rights of children to be respected by travellers and tourists.
A significant outcome of the consultation was that PEaCE was able to establish a strategic relationship among the public, private and NGO sector stakeholders with a focus on taking further action to ensure that children are safe from all forms of exploitation and abuse in the travel and tourism industry. The agenda of the programme included two panel discussions, both followed by group exercises and a few presentations by prominent persons in respective areas/topics. Overall, the consultation concluded with recommendations suggested by participants under three main categories: (1). Awareness Raising; (2). Legal and Regulatory, and (3). Ethical and Responsible Industry Practices.
The Consultation was a significant success in drawing the serious attention of all participant stakeholders towards the severity of the issue and the need for taking immediate and continuous action to make travel and tourism a child-safe environment. At the end of the programme, there was a common agreement to have a follow-up meeting, to discuss the outcomes and specific action be taken and form a voluntary steering group to continue this effort. In this context, PEaCE conducted this follow-up workshop on January 22, 2018 at Renuka City Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 28 participants of the previous consultation and eight members of Lemonaid and ChariTea Foundation from Germany, a donor of PEaCE, attended the workshop which took place from 9.30 AM to 1.30 PM.
Mohammed Mahuruf, Executive Director of PEaCE, commenced the workshop by welcoming the participants and describing its objectives and invited Dr. Udan Fernando to moderate the programme. Ashan Weerasinghe, a member of the PEaCE team made a presentation, highlighting the key points of the consultation to recall the memory of the participants.
As the overall outcomes of the National Consultation in December 2017 were classified into three categories, the participants including the foreign visitors were divided into three groups and a matrix was distributed for them to complete with their recommendations. The matrix provided space for them to suggest activities based on recommendations, target group, time-frame, responsible organisation or authority and required resources. After the group discussions, the three groups presented their plans and specific recommendations.
It was noteworthy that several participants representing leading hotels, travel companies and hotel associations were keen in connecting their institutions/companies with the PEaCE effort. For example, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism Sri Lanka (ASMET) talked very much positively of the workshop and expressed their willingness to work with PEaCE in this regard in the future. Soon after the workshop, Mr. Jehan Perinpanayagam who is the Chief Executive Officer of Infomate – John Keells Holdings sent a thanking note to PEaCE in which he has emphasised that his company is looking forward to initiate a child protection initiative, requesting the support and advice of PEaCE. Achievements such as these are highly significant and result-oriented, given the future contribution which could be obtained from these corporate leaders.
A steering committee consisting of seven volunteers was formed and PEaCE will keep in touch with all participants, especially with the members of this group, for further action that has to be taken to continue this effort.