At the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development, in August and September 2002, the UN World Tourism Organization launched a new initiative in collaboration with UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. That initiative was called ST-EP: Sustainable Tourism Eliminating Poverty.
As Chairperson of Visit Korea Year, Young-shim Dho represented the Republic of Korea's Ministry of Culture and Tourism at the Johannesburg Summit. Based on her report, the MCT began considering Korea to be involved in the ST-EP initiative.
In October 2003 at the UNWTO's General Assembly in Beijing, Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli of the United Nations World Tourism Organization was formally mandated to aggressively pursue the implementation of the ST-EP program. That resolution was unanimously passed by the 146 member states and some 350 affiliates.
On March 25th, 2004 a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of the ST-EP Foundation's international headquarters in Seoul was signed by the Korean MCT and UNWTO. The MCT pledged $5,000,000 US as a seed fund at that time.
The 73rd Session of the UNWTO Executive Council was held on July 9th, 2004 in India. The EC formally approved the MOU and established the ST-EP Foundation Preparatory Committee. It held its first meeting, jointly chaired by Young-shim Dho and Francesco Frangialli.
In August 2004, after extensive consultations between the UNWTO and Korean MCT, the second meeting of the Preparatory Committee was held on the sidelines of the Olympic Summer Games in Athens. The basic principles and structure of the ST-EP Foundation were established at that time.
Formal agreement on the establishment in Seoul of the ST-EP Foundation's international headquarters was signed on September 24th, 2004 by Secretary-General Frangialli and Minister of Culture and Tourism Chung Dong-chea.
The Netherlands Development Organization signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNWTO on November 16th, 2004 in the Hague. The MOU concerned cooperation on the ST-EP initiative, and SNV Netherlands eventually donated 2,000,000 euro to the ST-EP Trust Fund. Donations of 600,000 euro from Italy and $200,000 US from Macau were later received.
The 73rd Session of the UNWTO Executive Council was held on December 3rd, 2004 in Brazil. The EC established the ST-EP Working Group in order to gather the opinions and resolve the concerns of all UNWTO member states. Six regions, including Africa, the Americas, East Asia / Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, where each represented by one country. The Federal Republic of Nigeria represented the African region, and Nigeria's Minister of Tourism, Frank Nchita Ogbuewu was elected as Chairman of the ST-EP Working Group.
On January 1st, 2005 the ST-EP Foundation employed its first staff-person.
On February 15th, 2005 the ST-EP Foundation opened its office on the 8th floor of the Korea National Tourism Organization building, in the heart of downtown Seoul.
The first meeting of the ST-EP Working Group was held on March 13th, 2005 at the world-famous ITB travel trade exhibition in Berlin.
From May 24th ~ 26th the second meeting of the ST-EP Working Group was held in Seoul. The regional representatives were joined be officials from the UNWTO, SNV Netherlands and Planet Finance. They agreed on the basic terms of the ST-EP Foundation Constitution, and also to present it at the 75th Session of the Executive Council in Bulgaria.
Final agreement on the ST-EP Constitution was reached at the third meeting of the ST-EP Working Group in Bulgaria on June 12th. Young-shim Dho, who became Korea's Ambassador of Tourism and Sports, presented the results to the Executive Council on June 13th. Approval of the ST-EP Constitution was added to the agenda for the 16th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Senegal.
A meeting on Harnessing Tourism for the Millennium Development Goals was hosted by the UNWTO on September 13th, 2005 in New York. It was held on the sidelines of the Special United Nations General Assembly. The Declaration on Tourism and the Millennium Development Goals was issued at that time.
The fourth meeting of the ST-EP Working Group was held on November 15th, 2005 in London in order to prepare the Working Group's Final Report for the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly.
In November 2005 the 16th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly was held in Senegal. The 146 member states and some 350 affiliates unanimously approved the Constitution of the ST-EP Foundation. The General Assembly also established the ST-EP Board of Directors with representatives from eight countries in different regions around the world, including South Korea, Japan, India, Ecuador, Lesotho, Senegal, Saudi Arabia and Italy.
At the 2006 ITB exhibition in Berlin on March 9th, the ST-EP Board of Directors held its first meeting. Ambassador Dho was elected as the Chairperson of the Board.
At the 17th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Colombia, November 22nd to the 29th, ST-EP Foundation welcomed SNV as a member of its Board of Directors.