Global perspective Human stories

Private backers donate $1 million to UN ecotourism project

Private backers donate $1 million to UN ecotourism project

A United Nations project aimed at developing sustainable tourism in fragile natural environments has received a $1 million donation involving innovative support from the private sector, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

The global cosmetics company Aveda and the UN Foundation -- set up to execute philanthropist Ted Turner's $1 billion gift in support of UN causes -- will give $500,000 each to the project. Two United Nations agencies, UNEP and the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation are joint managers of the venture.

Welcoming the move, UNEP said it would help to kick-start the International Year of Ecotourism, which will be officially launched in New York on 28 January.

The project uses tourism to mitigate threats to biodiversity conservation at six World Heritage sites, balancing the demands of tourists with the needs and traditions of local people and the environment. Although there are several environmental problems associated with tourism, such as loss of wildlife habitats and production of waste, tourism is also a source of income for the sites.

UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, said he hoped the project would become “a blueprint that shows how ecotourism, as a tool for sustainable tourism, can be a means of avoiding environmental degradation while sharing the economic benefits with local people.”

The World Heritage sites that will benefit from the new funding are the Sian Ka’an and El Vizcaino biosphere reserves in Mexico, Tikal national park in Guatemala, the Rio Platano biosphere reserve in Honduras, and the Komodo and Ujung Kulon national parks in Indonesia.