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8 Candidates for UNWTO Secretary-General Election


The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) confirmed today in a “Note Verbale” that 8 applications from candidates competing for the post of UNWTO Secretary-General were received.

The UNWTO Secretariat said that 6 applicants did not include the required documentation and, therefore, did not comply with procedures.

That currently leaves this race to just two candidates:

  1. Ms. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Alkhalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain
  2. Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili from Georgia

Despite making a meeting impossible for some and difficult for others, Mr. Pololikashvili, the current Secretary-General, still insists on having the 113th session of the Executive Council to be held on January 18-19 in Madrid, Spain. In September, the same Secretary-General argued at the 112th session of the Executive Council meeting in his home country of Georgia that a January meeting would be easiest to coincide with FITUR, a yearly international travel trade show in Madrid.

Just a week after the Georgia meeting, FITUR was postponed to May 19-23, 2021 due to the COVID lockdown in Spain. If the meeting was to remain in January, Executive Council members would not be able to send their ministers to such a meeting safely, leaving the vote in the hands of embassy staff.

Mr. Pololikashvili was the Georgian ambassador to Spain and is well connected in the diplomatic community in Madrid. This is a clear disadvantage for Ms. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Alkhalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Mr. Pololikashvili has shown already his intention was to make competition difficult if not impossible in moving the election to January 2021 and the deadline for new candidates to register from January 2021 to November 2020. A fair solution would have been to give more and not less time during a global pandemic.

It’s now in the hands of the following countries to appeal to the current UNWTO Secretary-General to reverse the move of the 113th Executive Council meeting to allow a physical meeting to take place and for the competing candidate from Bahrain to prepare herself and lobby for her election. With the holiday season approaching, such a preparation to attend a meeting during a COVID-19 lockdown could be seen as a selfish abuse of power by Mr. Pololikashvili.

eTurboNews has received a confidential comment that Zurab was approached by an Executive Council member requesting a date change for the January meeting to the new FITUR dates in May, but the Secretary-General forcefully declined to consider.

FITUR was the reason the meeting was pushed to January. Since FITUR is now in May, why couldn’t the Executive Council meeting dates be adjusted? The answer is obvious, and a UN-affiliated agency should be neutral and not take the interest of one country over another.

Only the members of the UNWTO Executive Council vote in the new Secretary-General election. Whoever wins needs to be confirmed by the General Assembly in October 2021.

The 35 voting members currently are:

  1. Algeria
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Bahrain
  4. Brazil
  5. Cabo Verde
  6. Chile
  7. China
  8. Congo
  9. Cote d”Ivoire
  10. Egypt
  11. France
  12. Greece
  13. Guatemala
  14. Honduras
  15. India
  16. Iran
  17. Italy
  18. Japan
  19. Kenya
  20. Lithuania
  21. Namibia
  22. Peru
  23. Portugal
  24. Republic of Korea
  25. Romania
  26. Russian Federation
  27. Saudi Arabia
  28. Senegal
  29. Seychelles
  30. Spain
  31. Sudan
  32. Thailand
  33. Tunisia
  34. Turkey
  35. Zimbabwe