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Your Opinion on the Upcoming UNWTO Election Requested

One country has to step up at the upcoming UNWTO General Assembly to request a secret voite. Here is why:

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  • The most controversial leader of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili needs two-thirds of the member countries at the upcoming General Assembly in Madrid to be reconfirmed for another 4-year term.
  • It takes 53 countries to reject his second term.
  • One country should request a secret re-confirmation vote at the upcoming General Assembly to make this process more fair.

Rejection is what the former two Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli and Taleb Rifai among according to eTN sources also the host country Spain, and several other countries are hoping for.

In addition, there is internal concern about the ethical drift of the organization, as stated by the UNWTO Ethics Officer in her report to the General-assembly. There’s also rising concern about the non-transparent ways of the current Secretary-General in the management of Human Resources and execution work orders.

UNWTO currently has 159 member states. According to Article 22 of the organization’s Statutes, “the general secretary shall be appointed by a two-thirds majority of the full members present and voting at the General Assembly.”

This means that any country that pushed for the non-ratification of the current secretary-general, would need 53 negative votes for Pololikashvili to block his re-election if all the member countries were present.

Rejection has never happened in the history of the UNWTO, but according to a source consulted by eTurboNews who knows perfectly how the organization works, “the present circumstances are very special.”

Zurab Pololikashvili was re-elected by the recent executive committee in January 2021 for the period 2022-2025. This committee came together in January, even though the usual time should have been May

An extensive report in the French magazine Espaces , entitled

“The World Tourism Organization, is it good for anything?” 

and published this past September, confirmed the context in which the re-election of Pololikashvili by the Executive Council took place in January 2021 first published by eTurboNews.

The UNWTO regulations provide that the election of the Secretary-General must always take place at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid. According to this report, the council decided to advance the election of the secretary-general to the month of January, so it could coincide with the FITUR trade show. This was decided at a previous session of the executive council in Georgia, the home country for the Secretary-General. Having the executive council meeting in Georgia raised many eyebrows.

FITUR however didn’t take place in January, but in May, so the argument by the SG to move his election to January was meaningless. However the January meeting during a COVID-19 lock down period was a clear advantage for him, so he refused to adjust the date.

He even refused to adjust the date after the former UNWTO leaders Francesco Frangialli and Taleb Rifai submitted an open letter through the advocacy mechanism of the newly founded World Tourism Network.

The arguments of the two former general secretaries were to remind that this election had always taken place in the spring, to allow the Secretariat and the Executive Council to approve the budget for the following year, with the expectation that the General Assembly would be held in the autumn.

Frangialli and Rifai argued that elections require a meeting in person and not a virtual one.

The rules and regulations that govern the electoral process signify the importance of the principle of the secret ballot, something that will be extremely difficult to arrange in a virtual meeting.” 

They pointed out that ministers would not travel to Madrid, specifically during a pandemic. Countries would rely on their ambassadors instead of tourism ministers to represent their country in the election. Unfortunately, this is what was hoped for by Zurab and actually happened. This was particularly unfair for the member countries without an embassy in Madrid. This alone, and the shortened time for new potential candidates to come forward clearly compromised the integrity of the elections.

A battle had begun between Zurab Pololikashvili, a candidate for reelection, and Shaika Mai bint Mohamed al Khalifa, a member of the royal family of Bahrain and Minister of Culture of that country between 2010 and 2014, who was the only one out of 6 candidates able to submit her nomination papers on time and correctly.

The UNWTO Election just killed any decency left in the UN System

Sources close to the UNWTO repeatedly pointed out “serious irregularities” in the election of the current secretary-general.

eTurboNews reported about the lawyer who drafted the bylaws of UNWTO. He thought the 2017 election for the Secretary-General should have been declared invalid.

Why the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Polokashvili was never properly elected?

Appointment of an Executive Director

There is internal concern about the ethical drift of the UNWTO to the point that the Ethics Officer of the organization, Marina Diotallevi mentioned it in the Human Resource report that leads to the General Assembly in Madrid. She speaks about “growing concern and sadness that the transparent internal practices that existed in previous UNWTO administrations, among other things, in terms of promotions, reclassifications of positions and appointments, have been suddenly interrupted, leaving ample room for opacity and arbitrary management “.

In fact, this week, the Spanish Magazine HOSTELTUR has learned that the secretary-general has appointed Zoritsa Urosevic as an executive director of the UNWTO. This position in fact makes her number three, after the secretary-general and the other executive director, the Chinese Zhu Shanzhong. The appointment is effective from October 19.

The last Executive Council was held in January of this year in Madrid, and there was no agenda point about this appointment. 

The executive director, a position that was until now political, is the one who now controls the Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility departments; Innovation, Education and Investments; Statistics; Sustainable Development and Intelligence and Competitiveness of the Tourist Market.

HOSTELTUR also learned that 200,000 Euros that was approved for “works to improve the infrastructure of the headquarters”, had been exclusively spent for the improvement of the office of the secretary-general. This work was done without a public tender as required by UNWTO regulations.

In addition, according to sources, the staff of the General Secretariat continues to telework and will do so at least until the end of the year, as planned.

eTurboNews is now asking readers:

Should Zurab Pololikashvili be reconfirmed for a second term as UNWTO Secretary-General?

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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