Bogotá – Rio + 20

by Damaris Chaves

High Level Dialogue on Sustainable Cities, Transport, and Tourism/ Global Forum on Human Settlements

#Planet4People was present at the High Level Dialogue Conference on Sustainable Cities, Transport and Tourism and the Global Forum on Human Settlements which took place in Bogotá, Colombia from the 10th to12th of August, 2014. My colleague Amos Bien and I had the pleasure to present at the session “Local development and sustainable tourism, policies, actions and best practices”.

This meeting was an extension of the Rio+20 Conference and focused on rapidly implementing the decisions made during the 2012 meeting to build sustainable cities, tourism industries and improved human settlements. The main objective of the conference was to provide a platform for the exchange of information for participants and decision makers in both developing and developed countries. The meeting also highlighted proven policies and identified best practices that support sustainable cities, tourism, and human settlements. Bogatá, the host city, served as an example of a sustainable city, that has made many advances to improve transportation, tourism and other forms of sustainable development. Lastly, the conference facilitated capacity building for visiting participants and contributed to the Sustainable Development Goals launched by the United Nations and the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development.
Our sessions main focus was to raise awareness on the impact of tourism, the threats it imposes on natural resources and climate, and the challenges to advance the agenda of sustainability. The main outcome was to move away from the concept of a sustainable tourism, but focus the conversation on the management of sustainable tourism. Arab Hobollah of UNEP emphasized the lack of understanding around the concept of sustainable tourism and how to provide sustainable tourism services and products. The challenges were made apparent Amos presented the potential of tourism for conservation by citing the case of Costa Rica and how even in this country it has taken years to demonstrate that the standing forest has more economic worth then deforestation. Our hosts from Bogotá emphasized the power of tourism for change. My focus was to show the way forward, by highlighting the need of local government engagement, the need to integrate sustainable planning into early faces of business planning, and making sustainability part of the core business decisions.
Progress is slow, but seeing tourism as part of this high level dialogue, in the context of Rio + 20 gives us hope that there is a commitment of change.