After the first World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in 1996, ECPAT Sweden developed The Code in partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and several Swedish tour operators.

The Code was then spread worldwide through partnerships with the ECPAT network, UNWTO, and UNICEF. Since 2004, The Code has operated as an independent non-profit organisation.

Today, it is a global multi-stakeholder organisation based in Thailand, with high-level leadership coming from both the tourism industry and civil society. Expansion and impact in many countries is driven by partnerships with passionate local non-governmental organisations, which we call Local Code Representatives.

Operations are funded primarily through grants from governments and foundations. Current funders are the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Part of the operational cost of The Code is funded through membership fees paid by the tourism companies themselves. Our vision for the future is to become a self-sustaining social enterprise, where the tourism industry funds The Code’s essential child protection work through membership fees. Learn more about how The Code is managed and funded.

The Code is now the leading responsible tourism initiative for the tourism industry to integrate child protection into its work.


  • 1996 – The Code is created by ECPAT Sweden, the UNWTO, and Swedish tour operators
  • 1999 – Growth of The Code funded by the generous support of the EU Commission
  • 2001 to 2004 – UNWTO hosts The Code’s secretariat in Madrid, Spain
  • 2003 – Awarded the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award
  • 2004 to 2011 – ECPAT-USA hosts The Code’s secretariat in New York, USA  with operations funded by generous support from UNICEF and Japan Committee for UNICEF
  • 2008 – Receives Ashoka Changemakers’ Ending Global Slavery Award
  • 2010 – Honoured with a number of awards: WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Award, The Ethical Corporation Award, the BIRD Express Travel Award, PATA Gold Award, and Travel and Leisure Magazine’s Human Rights Leadership Award
  • 2011 – Membership fee introduced
  • 2011 to 2013 –  ECPAT International hosts The Code’s secretariat in Bangkok, Thailand
  • 2012 to current – Operations funded by the generous support of Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
  • 2013 to 2015 – Special project to expand The Code in Thailand, funded by BMZ/GIZ in partnership with Kuoni Group, TUI Travel, Accor Hotels, and ITB Messe
  • 2013 – Awarded the SKAL Sustainable Development in Tourism Award
  • 2014 to 2016 – Special project to expand The Code in Myanmar, funded by SECO
  • 2014 – The Code moves to own office in Bangkok, Thailand