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UNWTO election of Secretary General

Latin America
Written by Galileo Violini

The campaign for the UNWTO election of Secretary General (World Tourism Organization) is currently underway. Unfortunately, discussions linked to controversial procedures that could favor one of the candidates, especially if their aim is to reach a vote as soon as possible notwithstanding the unusual criticism of their predecessors in office over the last twenty years, have been overshadowed by the concrete proposals that differentiate the two candidates, which have not always received due attention outside the specialized press.

One of these proposals that deserves a lot of attention is the one put forward by HE Mai Al Khalifa to establish a Global Assistance Fund for the revival of tourism after the pandemic crisis.

Its scope goes beyond the area of tourism and reflects a vision that can be a model for other international agencies. The budgetary structure of these agencies, typically UNESCO, is based on individual country contributions, to which are added so-called voluntary contributions that have a defined destination. The consequence is that the activities that the organization finances through this mechanism only in a very broad sense are part of long-term programs of the organization since they often result more from a bilateral negotiation between the donor and the beneficiary country – a process in which the role of the international organization is basically that of an intermediary, highly qualified by the way, owning valuable experience and goodwill in the implementation of the financed project.

HE Al Khalifa’s proposal reaffirms the primacy of the international character of the organization, reducing possible conditioning on the part of the donor countries. The potential of these mechanisms is manifold and an example that the writer has been following for some time makes this clear. In Central America, the creation of a Regional Fund for Science and Technology created by direct contributions from the participating countries has been pursued for some time with the perspective of further strengthening through matching funds from donors and funding banks. Such a mechanism would obviously increase the contractual power of these countries.

Post-pandemic recovery is a problem that cannot be left solely to countries with greater economic capacity. The management of an Assistance Fund that is reasonably autonomous and that implements the policies decided by an international organization is a guarantee that recovery will be determined by global interests.

This is not only true for UNWTO and UNESCO. The challenges that the United Nations system will face in the coming years are enormous. The framework for achieving the Sustainable Development 2030 goals will have to overcome the legacy of the crisis that began last year. This will require new mechanisms for collaboration, and the one proposed by HE Al Khalifa seems very interesting for many organizations that are particularly hard hit by the pandemic. The first examples that come to mind are the FAO and UNICEF.

This might suggest that the proposed Fund is not sectoral. For this reason, we welcome the proposal and look forward to its implementation.

It is evident that the proposal of establishing such a fund will face major difficulties. The most serious difficulty is that the major donors face financial problems due to the huge amount of public expenditure mobilized to offset the COVID-19 impact. An alternative approach may consist of seeking the involvement of GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). A good example is the successful launch by UNESCO of the Global Alliance for Education in which the Internet giants are partners. GAFA may provide both financial and intellectual support.

The World Tourism Network called for Decency in the UNWTO Elections and its campaign has gained worldwide support.

M. El Tayeb also contributed to this article.


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About the author

Galileo Violini