GUATEMALA PRESIDENT CREDITS COUNTERPART
Counterpart president Lelei LeLaulu said he was honored by President Berger's very kind words and diverted all credit to the Guatemalan community development teams assembled by his organization. "Counterpart Guatemala has done a wonderful job of listening to their compatriots define the tools they need to build healthy communities and long-term employment by ensuring tourism and what we call 'ethical archaeology' are harnessed to benefit the people and the destinations."
Counterpart works with Maya communities throughout Guatemala, helping villagers design and build basic accommodations, tourist trails, visitor centers, white-water rafting and cave exploration trips.
"We could not have done it without the solid support of President Berger who has visited Counterpart projects and seen the enormous value to rural communities offered by sustainable tourism. Our teams were enormously energized by the visits of President Berger to see for himself how well people in remote locations are doing," said LeLaulu.
With several US universities, Counterpart implements its 'ethical archaeology' approach which aims to ensure Maya communities are fully integrated into the restoration of archaeological sites and the conservation of their natural and cultural patrimony.
"For too long the Maya have been excluded from the uncovering of their magnificent history, so thanks to visionary archaeologists like Dr. Arthur Demarest â€“ who coined the phrase 'ethical archaeology' and developed the original program with Counterpart and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) â€“ local Maya communities are now more involved with archaeological restoration and tourism," added Raymond Chavez, Counterpartâ€™s Vice President for Environment and Communications programs. The training of Maya women and men to the doctorate level is a key element of the ethical archeology approach championed by Dr. Demarest.
Last week, President Berger hosted Counterpart, National Geographic Society, ANACAFE â€“ an alliance representing 75,000 producers and which promotes Guatemalan coffees â€“ Guatemala's Tourism Institute and US Ambassador James Derham at the magnificent National Palace in the center of the capital for the signing of the 'Geotourism Charter' designed to ensure that tourism enhances and improves the destinations in the Central American nation.
Coined by Jonathan B. Tourtellot, the National Geographic Society's Director of Sustainable Destinations, Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place â€“ its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.
President Berger lauded the work of Counterpart, National Geographic and USAID over the years and welcomed the creation of the Guatemalan Geotourism Alliance which includes ANACAFE.
"Tourism is the world's largest and fastest growing industry. Coffee is the world's second largest commodity after oil. So it makes sense for us to look at incorporating Guatemala's storied coffee producing destinations into the development of sustainable tourism in the country," LeLaulu asserted.
With support from USAID and under the leadership of Mario Del Cid, Counterpart works with local community tourism programs throughout Guatemala with special emphasis in the Peten region which has the largest number of ancient Maya archeological sites. In addition to sustainable tourism, Counterpart also helps rural communities further diversify their economies with high value crops such as cacao, vanilla, and cardamom, the aromatic seeds of a tropical forest plant much sought after in the Middle Eastern and Asian spice trade.
Since 1965, Counterpart has given people a voice in their own future through smart partnerships, offering options and access to tools for sustained social, economic and environmental development. Operating on five continents, Counterpart is supported by the generosity of its corporate and individual donors, foundations, host countries, multilateral institutions and several U.S. government agencies. For further information, visit www.counterpart.org.
Source: Counterpart International
Contact: Christine Hicks + 1 202 296-9676
Photograph available at: www.mediaexchange.info/tmp/guatemala_president.jpg
CAPTION: President Oscar Berger (centre) looks on as the Geotourism Charter is signed in Guatemala.