Aiming to promote responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism in the framework of the right of all persons to use their free time for leisure pursuits or travel with respect for the choices of society of all peoples, ([from Preamble of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism][1])

I understand everyone has the mentioned right provided that they respect the decisions each society makes about its affairs.

So is it right? Can we say choices here means decisions?


Choices of society is a common UNESCO catchphrase meaning the distinct ways in which a nation chooses, more or less formally, to organize its social institutions: politics, economics, religion, education, marriage, and the like. It's a phrase which allows UNESCO to acknowledge and dignify the great differences between the many nations it represents.

Unrestricted gun ownership is a choice of society in the United States.

I suspect that the original form is French, choix de société—I see this phrase all over French political discourse. That's the sort of thing that is very difficult to translate into English.

  • "social choices" would be understood by default as individuals' choices with respect to their own societies and thus fails to capture the nuance that what is meant is the choices made by an entire society.

  • "a society's choices" does capture that nuance, but it falters when, as in the present instance, you have to speak of the different choices made by multiple societies: "societies' choices" suggests the kinds of choices which each society is constrained to make.

Consequently, UNESCO and its translators have elected to represent the French phrase in English with a calque, a word-for-word translation. You might think of it as a fixed phrase: choices-of-society, bearing a single signification. Within UNESCO, the collocation is familiar and transparent. But for readers outside the organization it is opaque; and its use leads to syntactically awkward constructions like that in your example, where English would ordinarily paraphrase.

The long noun phrase you boldface may be paraphrased something like this

All persons have the right to use their free time for leisure pursuits or travel, provided that in the course of those activities they respect the choices-of-society which all peoples [that is, every nation] are entitled to make for themselves.


Yes you seem to have it right. That's a crappy sentence in that it uses a lot of words to be vague. But the implication is that 'society of all peoples' could 'choose' to constrain the pursuits and travel of individuals.

One could argue that this carefully does NOT give confer to any societal subset (a society NOT of ALL peoples) the right to make choices that restrict tourism. I'm sure that's not intended, but it's funny that it might thus be viewed as a loophole through which global tourism rights can trample the protests of any unwilling 'hosts'. And that kind of effect is a direct consequence of trying to sound sweeping and formal instead of just using clear language.


It looks as if they failed to edit something out; that is, it looks as if they were considering either "of society" or "of all peoples", and ended up leaving them both in.

That said, if they expect the travelers to "respect" those decisions, that's a responsibility, not a "right"—as it can restrict, not expand, their travel choices.

It may well be, however, that they didn't mean that the travelers need to respect those choices, but rather that those promoting the travel need to respect those choices. That is, the phrase beginning at "with respect to" might be meant to modify "to promote", rather than "to use".

I agree with etc that it is very poorly written.

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