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Geoffrey Lipman calls for Decency in the UNWTO Secretary-General election


Another call for decency for the UNWTO election process for the secretary-general. The scandal and the embarrassment for the World Tourism Organization is exploding, but Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvil response so far is silence.

Today, Professor Geoffrey Lipman, a former assistant Secretary-General, and the first Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) added his voice to the open letter the two previous World Tourism Organization Secretary-General delivered yesterday.

This is a transcript of the open letter by Professor Lipman circulated on December 9, 2020:

To Francesco Frangialli, Taleb Rifai

Adding my voice to the call for Decency in the election of the Secretary-General

Dear Friends,

I am writing to add my voice as an “elder statesman” to that of Francesco and Taleb, my former colleagues in the management of the Organization, to call for less haste and more decency in the election of the next Secretary General.

And I speak not only as a former colleague who worked hard with both of you to build UNWTO, but as a long-time industry player, (as Executive Director of IATA and first President of WTTC) and committed climate activist.

We are not facing one crisis –but two.

The Climate Crisis is like COVID on steroids and even while dealing with massive human, business and operational challenges of COVID, we must also respond to the crazy storms, floods, droughts, forest and permafrost fires, as well as the migrations – all of which are indicative of the growing Climate Crisis and horrendous for a sector whose product has been built on predictable, bearable weather patterns. We must deepen our climate response and bend our trend of carbon emission like every other sector of the economy. And we must start now. Or our grandkids freeze or fry. That’s what eXistential means.

We need a UNWTO for the next few years that is working with all stakeholders to deal with these issues – and one that is seen to be focused on them not on internal wrangling. We also have a very important COP 26 in Glasgow already postponed until the end of this yearWe need a good and clear position on support for Paris 1.5. and we don’t yet have one – UN SG Guterres has called for all post pandemic Travel & Tourism to be “Climate Friendly” and we must be in the lead on this issue as a sector.

I do not know personally if the issues raised by Taleb and Francesco are exactly as laid out, but I know both men very, very, well – and if they have created the common ground to go public on this issue; I stand with them.

There is no downside for the organization from doing what seems to be the right and the logical thing – to operate on a timescale that responds to the current crises and in a manner which just seems decent. (we have lost sight of decency a lot in the past 4 years and we have been given a second chance as a world community with the Biden Presidency and his re-entry into Paris & Green Deal. The UN family has played a lead role on responding to both crises – and we as Travel and Tourism must be fully engaged)

For all the above reasons I join my friends and colleagues Francesco and Taleb in asking Zurab to do the right thing.

There is an old saying that Justice must not only be done – it must be seen to be done. For the moment it isn’t.


Professor Geoffrey Lipman

Co-Founder SUNx (Strong Universal Network – legacy for Maurice Strong, who started it all)