Governments at national, provincial/state and local level frequently produce legislation, policies, mission statements, plans, strategies, research reports and web content concerned with aspects of leisure, such as sport, outdoor recreation, open space, arts/culture/heritage, tourism and play. Typically, these communications seek to persuade citizens, elected representatives and managers and administrators across a range of policy sectors of the important of these leisure-related phenomena for community welfare. As part of this communication process, it may help to inform readers that access to leisure facilities and services is a human right and that these rights are spelled out not only in the WLO Charter for Leisure but also in international treaties which the majority of nations of the world have ratified.


The key UN treaty for leisure and culture is the 1966 International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which gives legal status to relevant parts of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Member states of the UN which ratify the ICESCR enter into a commitment to implement the covenant and to report periodically to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on progress. If your government has ratified the covenant, and therefore made these commitments it may be helpful to draw attention to this fact. The listing of countries which have ratified the covenant can be found at the following: (click on ‘Status of ratifications …’).

Quotations and summaries

Governmental organizations may find it helpful to include all or some of the following quotations in their policy documents.


1948: United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

‘Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, … and the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community’. (Articles 24 and 27)

1970/2020: World Leisure Organization: Charter for Leisure

‘Everyone, whether adult or child, has the right to adequate time for rest and for the pursuit of leisure activity (Article 1) and ‘to freely participate in the cultural life of the community’ (including music and song, ceremonies, sport and games, and natural and man-made environments) (Article 4).


1979: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Women and men should have ‘the same opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education and in … all aspects of cultural life. (Articles 10 and 13)

1989: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Governments should ‘recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts … and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity’. (Article 31)

1999: UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities

‘Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities …  have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, and to use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination. …  and to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life’. (Article 2)

2006: UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Governments should recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy access to: cultural materials, television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats; places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, monuments and sites of national cultural importance; sporting and recreational venues; and opportunities to participate, to the fullest extent possible, in mainstream and disability-specific sporting and recreational activities and appropriate instruction, training and resources. (Summary of Article 30)


2010: The Olympic Charter

‘The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport in accordance with his or her needs’. (Article 1)

1976/1992 European Sports Charter (Council of Europe)

‘Governments, with a view to the promotion of sport as an important factor in human development, shall take the steps necessary to … enable every individual to participate in sport’. (Article 1)

1978/2014 UNESCO International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport

‘The practice of … physical education, physical activity and sport is a fundamental right for all’. (Article 1)


1948: United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community’. (Article 27)

Travel and tourism

1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

‘Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’. (Article 13)

‘Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay’. (Article 24)

1998: Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (World Tourism Organization)

‘The universal right to tourism must be regarded as the corollary of the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, guaranteed by Article 24 of the UDHR and Article 7d of the ICESCR’. (Article 7.2)

‘Social tourism, and in particular associative tourism, which facilitates widespread access to leisure, travel and holidays, should be developed with the support of the public authorities’. (Article 7.3)

‘Family, youth, student and senior tourism and tourism for people with disabilities, should be encouraged and facilitated’. (Article 7.4)

Individual jurisdictions: Charters for Leisure

Individual countries/provinces/states/municipalities may wish to develop their own Charter for Leisure, based on the WLO charter but reflecting local cultures and traditions and possibly referring to local constitutions and/or legislation. The WLO would be interested to hear of such initiatives (via the WLO Secretariat at: )