International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Spring 2013 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 Ways


By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor, and President, International Judicial Academy.

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a small pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The Introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO – see below) there were 980 million international tourists in 2011. Considering that the total population of the earth is approximately 7 billion persons, the first statistic has special meaning: almost one seventh of the world’s population was traveling internationally in that year. That amazing statistic was supposed to change and rise by 3% or 4% in 2012, which means that last year over one billion persons were international travelers. The prediction has been confirmed by the statistics available for 2012; the total number of international travelers last year was 1.035 billion, marking the first time in world history that over one billion people traveled abroad in a single year.

There are some other startling statistics relating to international travel in 2011: the amount spent by international travelers amounted to 5% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) of all countries in the world; international tourism generated over one trillion dollars in export earnings; international tourism supported 235 million jobs worldwide ; and international tourist travel constituted 30% of the world’s export of services.

International law is part of the reason for the spectacular growth in international tourism in recent years, because of the existence of a number of international agreements “preserving natural, cultural, and heritage sites for educational, cultural and social benefit.” These international agreements are the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention of 1972); the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954); the Second Hague Protocol (1999); and the Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (1977). The most important of these international agreements is the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

After World War I and considering the devastation that occurred on the battlefields of France and Belgium, there developed two movements, one promoting the preservation of cultural sites, and the second focusing on the conservation of nature.

In 1959 there occurred a single event which mobilized those interested in these movements to take strong action. That single event was the proposed building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, which if built without modification of the plans, would have destroyed the very historic Abu Simbel Temples, dating from ancient Egyptian civilization. Ultimately the dam was built, but only after the temples had been moved to another location.

The Aswan Dam controversy was followed by a conference in Washington, D.C. in 1965. The main proposal considered at this conference was a World Heritage Trust that would through international cooperation protect and preserve natural and historic sites for future generations.  The idea was further considered by various organizations. A formal proposal was presented in 1972 to a UN conference on the human environment in Stockholm. The result was the World Heritage Convention.


The Convention maintains a World Heritage List of natural and cultural sites. These sites are located in many different countries around the world. The list currently contains 962 properties in 157 countries which are broken down as follows

Cultural sites: 745
Natural sites: 188
Mixed sites: 29

Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Machu Picchu in Peru are both World Heritage Sites.

The Convention also administers a World Heritage Fund to assist in the preservation of historic and natural sites in individual countries. The Convention also maintains a list of sites of World Heritage in Danger, which assists countries in deciding where to direct preservation funds.

A commentary on the Convention concludes with this important observation:

[T]he inscription of a site on the World Heritage List brings an increase in public awareness of the site and its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organized respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy.

Supplementing the World Heritage Convention is a relatively unknown organization, the World Tourism Organization, which generally is called the UNWTO because it is an official organ of the United Nations and to distinguish it from the WTO, which signifies the World Trade Organization.

The UNWTO was formally created in Mexico City in 1970 by a special “General Assembly Meeting” of a predecessor organization, the International Union of Official Travel Organizations (IUOTO). Five years later the General Assembly of the WTO voted to accept an invitation by the Spanish government to establish a headquarters in Madrid, and elected Robert Lonati of Spain as the first WTO Secretary-General. The next year the WTO became an “executing agency” of the United Nations Development Programme. In 2003 the WTO officially became a part of the UN System, entitling it to be designated as the UNWTO.

Currently there are 155 member states of the UNWTO, seven associate members, two permanent observers, and over 400 affiliate members. The organs of the UNWTO are a General Assembly, the supreme organ; the Executive Council; a number of specialized committees, and a Secretariat headed by a Secretary-General. The current Secretary-General is Taleb D. Rifai of Jordan. Three other executive positions are staffed by representatives from Brazil, France and Hungary.

The main purpose of the UNWTO is to promote tourism as a driver of “economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.” One of its noteworthy accomplishments is the adoption of a Global Ethics of Tourism. It encourages adoption of the Code by member states. The Code of Ethics is:

[A] comprehensive set of principles designed to guide key-players in tourism development. Addressed to governments, the travel industry, communities and tourists alike, it aims to help maximize the sector’s benefits while minimizing its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe.

The Code of Ethics covers such matters as tourism as a beneficial activity for host countries and communities, obligations of stakeholders in tourism development, rights to tourism, liberty of tourist movements, and the rights of the workers and entrepreneurs in the tourism industry.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2013 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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