Shame on UNWTO Secretary-General Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili was the headline on eTurboNews three days ago.
Three days later two former highly concerned UNWTO Secretary Generals, Francesco Frangialli and Dr. Taleb Rifai came out of retirement with an open letter delivered today to all UNWTO Member States.
The letter is also delivered to the UN Headquarters in New York. In the history of this UN-affiliated organization, this is a first.
While the tourism world is trying to stay alive during the worst crisis this industry ever faced, the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili is shamelessly taking advantage of the current situation. He knows he failed, running his office like a dictator. He also knows he needs to make it impossible for any candidate campaigning against him to have a fair shot.
Zurab has been traveling to voting executive council member countries promising positions and giving them his full attention. Sources told eTurboNews: Brazil was promised a high-level position, Chile received a vote from Georgia in return for an expected vote for Zurab. Romania cut a deal, and Saudi Arabia is getting a UNWTO center for 13 countries.
Zurab doesn’t like questions. The minute he took office his press office concentrated to produce self-serving press releases. On relevant issues the media was left in the dark, questions were not allowed and never responded to.
The largest source countries for tourism, the United States of America and the U.K. took a step back postponing plans to join the organization after the September 2019 General Assembly in St. Petersburg.
COVID-19 was met with glossy brochures and fancy studies.
Finally two former UNWTO Chiefs said: “Enough is enough”
Open letter from former Secretaries-General of UNWTO Francesco Frangialli and Taleb Rifai to the Members
Dear collegues and friends,
We hope this message reaches you in good health in these testing times.
We are writing to you today, in our capacity as two former Secretaries-General of our esteemed UNWTO, having served in office for a combined 20 years. We are concerned about the impact that the international spread of Covid-19 is having on the upcoming elections of the Secretary-General for 2022-2025
At the last meeting held in Georgia, the Executive Council agreed on a tight timetable for the upcoming elections of the next Secretary-General. It was agreed, based on the recommendation of the Secretariat, that the elections be held on 18th January 2021, instead of during May which has always been the case in the past. The main reason for this recommendation was that it would better coincide with FITUR in Madrid since the rules and regulations state that elections will always be held at headquarters[. To be fair to the Secretariat, it was our understanding that it was also the desire of Spain to schedule the meeting to coincide with FITUR.
The premise for that decision has changed. Spain has decided to postpone FITUR until 19-23 May 2021. This situation should suggest that you all reconsider the wisdom of this decision, particularly in the light of the fact that Tourism Ministers, like many other public officials around the globe, are experiencing the biggest challenge ever faced by this sector. Ministers are under daily pressure from public and private stakeholders to re-open their borders and relaunch travel. Considering, therefore, the current preoccupation and priorities of each Minister, and in the interest of public safety, we are making this appeal to you.
We strongly recommend that the elections of the Secretary-General 2022-2025 be postponed, to be held concurrently with the General Assembly in Morocco (September/October).
The rationale is as follows:
1 . The UNWTO has always held the first Council of the year in the spring, during late April or May. The reason for this timing is that it would give both the secretariat and the Council the opportunity to approve the budget of the previous year (2020 in this case). This is timed to allow the auditors to complete their work in early April, to have this audit available for submission on time for the General Assembly, which is held in September or October.
2 . The elections require an in person meeting and not a virtual one. The rules and regulations governing the election process mean that, especially considering the principle of secret voting, it would be extremely difficult to execute this in a virtual online meeting. If the plan is to have ambassadors represent their countries, which is especially unfair for those nations that do not have embassies in Madrid, this would compromise the integrity of the elections.
3. With the current situation of the global pandemic, the world is postponing such events, and certainly not bringing them foreword.
We are concerned and want to maintain the correctness and integrity of the Secretary-General elections. For all these reasons, we are both kindly suggesting that the UNWTO reconsider the decision taken in Georgia.
We recommend that you move the next meeting of the Executive Council, where elections are held, to coincide with the General Assembly in September/October 2021. As an alternative, the Council could respect the desire of Spain, the host country of the UNWTO headquarters, to still have the elections coincide with FITUR in May 2021.
With regards to the candidacy, the current position is that everyone had to abide by the decision of the Council to submit their application in the short timeframe agreed upon in Georgia. We believe that, in fairness to others that may still wish to submit their candidacy,the cut-off date for submitting candidate applications should, at a minimum, be moved to March 2021. This timing has been the case in all previous elections.
We are naturally copying the Secretariat on this communication. We have been apprised informally of the insistence of this Secretariat to keep the schedule of meetings as decided in Georgia. This is the reason that we are addressing you publicly and directly.
We thank you all dearly for your kind understanding and consideration of the wellbeing and integrity of the UNWTO. We are hoping to see you at FITUR in Madrid in May, and certainly at the General Assembly in Morocco in September/October 2021.