Tourism leaders under the leadership of few past Secretary Generals of the UNWTO, including immediate past Secretary General, Dr Taleb Rifai, has started a campaign against alleged “arbitrary and opaque” management of the UN body for travel and tourism under the current Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili. As UNWTO General Assembly will be meeting in Madrid, Spain this month end to discuss and approve the re-election of the current Secretary General, Pololikashvili, for another four-year term, the top leaders in an open appeal to the UNWTO member states asked to use their power to save an important UN organisation.
Prominent leaders of the tourism sector cite the findings of the Ethics Officer in August this year to attack the current Secretary General and his re-election to the top position for another term. The report by the Ethics Officer Management, Culture and Practices had raised serious questions on promotions, reclassification and appointments that had happened during the last four years in UNWTO.
They also criticise the Secretary General’s action in pushing the Secretary General election months’ ahead of the scheduled time, preventing member states from putting up candidates. The Covid-19 pandemic also prevented many members from travelling to Madrid Spain for the Executive Council held in January this year, they allege.
At a webinar organised by World Tourism Network (WTN) to discuss the letters written by former Secretary Generals and other eminent tourism leaders to member states on the arbitrary and opaque management of UNWTO, Francesco Frangialli, former UNWTO Secretary General said that the present dispensation has really weakened the UNWTO system when the tourism industry is in dire straits globally and fighting multiple challenges of the global pandemic, climate change, migration, etc.
Frangialli said that the re-election itself is null and void because the laid out procedures were not followed. “It was not conducted in the regular manner, therefore the worst has to be feared,” he said.
Present at the webinar, Dr Rifai said that the EC meeting of January was illegal and was not clean. The UN system needs to be clean and transparent, he said. He called for collective work to convince the heads of states to act to save the system and the UNWTO.
Alain St Ange, former Tourism Minister of Seychelles also expressed his disappointment in the way UNWTO leadership handled the crisis. “There is a void and anomaly,” he said asking for the UN to ponder what is wrong with its own organisation. He said that when tourism is totally sidelined, there was no leadership of UNWTO to speak out for the industry.
Walter Mzembi, former Zimbabwean Tourism Minister also questioned the way an important UN organisation is run. He said that people should not be allowed to break and violate the statutes brazenly. He said that the heads of states needed to be alerted about the Ethics Officer’s report demanding concrete action to save the organisation.
Carlos Ruiz, former Executive Director of UNWTO also urged the leadership of UNWTO member states to act intelligently to shape the future of the UNWTO. “There was no proper leadership for the UNWTO for the last four years,” he said. “The member states should be aware of their responsibility in selecting the right leadership,” he added.