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The UNWTO Executive Council Clarifies: A new Letter from Chile

The UNWTO Executive Council did nothing wrong, but the situation has changed

As expected and on behalf of the 32 members of the Executive Council, the President of the UNWTO Executive Council, José Luis Uriarte Campos  from Chile confirmed to the UNWTO Member States the recommendation of the Executive Council that met in January this year to re-elect Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization for the period 2022-2025.

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The Minister of Tourism from Chile is a lawyer. As the head of the current UNWTO Executive Council, he took an important move yesterday. He made clear the Executive Council has been operating within UNWTO Regulations when electing Zurab Pololikasgvili in January. Lawyers can read between the lines.

Mr. Campos correctly explained the Executive Council proceeding met and proceeded based on UNWTO rules, what of course no one ever questioned.

After all, it’s not the mistake of the UNWTO Executive Council, if a UNWTO General Assembly could not confirm a decision made by them, especially when the situation had changed, and the Executive Council was completely unaware of what will change between the day a decision was made and a General Assembly.

It can be assumed the reason for having several months between the decision and confirmation is to exactly allow for changes to be considered.

It’s now up to the upcoming General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) meeting in just a few days in Madrid to confirm or not confirm the recommendation of the Executive Council from January this year.

When looking at UNWTO, when looking at the Secretary-General Pololikashvili, and when looking at how Executive Council members think today, it feels we may be on a different planet, compared to where we were in January, or before in September.

The 33 members of the Executive Council namely 1. Saudi Arabia – 2. Algeria – 3. Azerbaijan- 4. Bahrain – 5. Brazil- 6. Cape Verde – 7. Chile- 8. China – 9. Congo – 10. Ivory Coast – 11. Egypt – 12. Spain – 13. Russian Federation – 14. France – 15. Greece – 16. Guatemala – 17. Honduras – 18. India – 19. Islamic Republic of Iran- 20. Italy – 21. Japan – 22. Kenya- 23. Lithuania- 24. Namibia – 25. Peru – 26. Portugal – 27. Republic of Korea – 28. Romania- 29. Senegal – 30. Seychelles – 31. Thailand – 32. Tunisia – 33. Turkey – operated in good faith and under strict rules set when voting in January.

Under the current rules, a confirmation of this recommendation is necessary with a 2/3 majority of the upcoming General Assembly.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili put the Executive Council on the spot, setting a shorter time frame for the election meeting. This was decided in a meeting by the Executive Council in the Secretary-General’s home country, Georgia last year. This again raised eyebrows at that time.

The Chile Minister was not leading the 112th. Executive Council when this decision was made in September last year in Georgia.

Executive Council meetings usually don’t take place in the Secretary-General’s home country.

At that time the Hon. Najib Balala from Kenya was in charge. It’s no secret to assume Balala at this moment is supporting the Secretary-General in his confirmation next week.

Because of this move, only one candidate from Bahrain managed to step into the race with very almost no opportunity to campaign during a Coronavirus global lockdown. She never had a realistic chance, and 6 other candidates were unable to produce paperwork fast enough within the shortened time frame, and during a spike in COVID-19 to enter the race. This included WTN board member and former Nepal Tourism Board CEO Deepak Joshi.

If there was a bone of fairness in the Secretary-Generals body, he would have requested to extend the election process beyond May. Instead, he pushed for a significantly shorter period for the Executive Council to meet again and vote for him. He must have been convinced not to face stiff competition in January – and he didn’t.

Once the original reason to move the election from May to January was eliminated, namely the FITUR trade show, the Secretary-General still ignored the request even after an open letter was received by two former Secretary Generals, by leaders that included names like Carlos Voegeler, Professor Geoffrey Lipman, Louis D’Amore and others. The letter urged the Secretary-General to move forward the election meeting of the Executive Council to the original date or better beyond.

The Secretary-General knew very well that allowing additional time would have opened the floor for competition. Instead, he invested all his effort leading to the January Executive Council meeting to cater almost exclusively to executive council countries, leaving other UNWTO member states and the corona crisis, needed cooperation with the private sector, specifically WTTC on the sideline.

When the Georgia Prime Minister hosted the dinner in Madrid on the night before the election, the Bahrain candidate stayed absent in protest.

Clearly, this move manipulated a fair process, but all of this may have been within the set of regulations and policies. Of course, such regulations and policies were put in place when the world did not know about a Coronavirus.

As explained by the Honorary. Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli in his open letter published just this week, legality is not enough.

In manipulating the process, you can be both legal and immoral.

The electoral procedure can be formally in accordance with the statutes, but at the same time unfair and unequal. At the end of the day the procedure would not be ethical.

As Sophocles wrote: “there is a point beyond which even justice becomes unjust”. 

The second open letter presented by the former secretary – generals in regards to the finding of the ethics commission, and the finding itself should be the reason for any fair-minded member to say “wait a minute”

So many facts the Executive Council didn’t know when voting for Zurab Pololikashvili

The fact that the ethics officer’s alarming and critical remarks in her report to the General Assembly, and that so many former high-level UNWTO Officials take the initiative and wrote an open letter addressed to member states clearly show that there is something seriously wrong in UNWTO.

Manipulation, staff abuse, the fact that criticism is not allowed in the UNWTO just came to light after the Ethics Commission report.

This report was not known to the Executive Council when voting for Zurab:

This paragraph in the ethics report sums it up:

With more than 35 years of service under six general secretaries of the Organization, of which more than 20 years have been dedicated to ethics and social responsibility, the internal Ethics Officer is currently the official with the longest service in the United States. the organization.

For this reason, I have been able to observe with growing concern and sadness that the transparent internal practices that existed in previous administrations, among other things, in terms of promotions, reclassifications of positions and appointments, have been suddenly interrupted, leaving ample room for opacity and for arbitrary management.

The fact that many members of the same Executive Council now support the letter by the two former Secretaries-General openly and behind the scene should give enough reason for every country respecting the finding of the Ethics Commission to say:

Wait a minute…

… and allow a second look and recognize the dramatic changes that took place between the time Zurab was confirmed by the Executive Council in January, and the situation UNWTO is facing today.

As well said by Francesco Frangialli his hope is, that the General Assembly, in its capacity of the “supreme organ” of the UNWTO, will do what is necessary to ensure a fair election in Madrid and a return to good management of the Organization. 

The letter just submitted on November 24 by the Head of the UNWTO Executive Council that met in January 2021 states:

Dear Member States,

The election process among the candidates presented by the Governments of Bahrain and Georgia, carried out during the 113th session of the Executive Council, complied in all points with the Statutes, with the procedure established by the Executive Council in document CE/112/6 rev.1, as well as with the Rules of Procedure of the Executive Council and with the General Rules for Elections by Secret Ballot of the UNWTO.

In said Election, conducted by secret ballot by the Members of the Executive Council duly accredited through the presentation of valid credentials issued by their respective Governments, was attended by 33 of the 34 Members of the Executive Council present at the meeting, already listed above.

Finally, during the 113th session of the Executive Council, the body decided to recommend Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili as Secretary-General of the Organization for the period from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2025, on the basis of that recommendation the outcome of the secret ballot between Ms. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Candidate of the Kingdom of Bahrain, who received 8 votes, and Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Candidate of the State of Georgia, who received 25 votes.

For all the above and in my capacity as President of the Executive Council, I confirm that during this presidency all the acts carried out have been adjusted to the Statutes and current legislation, being the election made by the Executive Council at its previous meeting a process attached to the regulations.

In view of the above, and respecting the results of the vote held at the 113th session of the Executive Council, I reiterate that the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization, in compliance with the provisions of Article 22 of the Statutes and Article 29 of the Rules of Procedure of the Executive Council, recommends to the General Assembly Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili as Secretary-General for the period 2022-2025.

Without another particular, I relate my highest consideration and esteem.

President of the UNWTO Executive Council,
José Luis Uriarte Campos, Chile

José Luis Uriarte Campos is a lawyer from the Universidad de Los Andes and a master’s degree in Public Policy from the Universidad del Desarrollo.

With almost 20 years of experience, he has a recognized career in the public world, highlighting his work as head of advisers in the Ministry of Economy, Development, and Tourism; territorial chief in the Ministry of Public Works and National Director of Sercotec.

In 2014 he served as Secretary-General of the National Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism, defining new work strategies and support for the sector.

Today he works as Undersecretary of Tourism, an entity dependent on the Ministry of Economy, Development, and Tourism.

Conclusion:

It should be noted, that according to reliable eTN sources this letter was written by Alicia Gomez, the legal counsel for UNWTO, and provided to the minister in Chile to sign.

UNWTO delegates should act responsibly and assess all the facts. If not the world of tourism will have to live 4 years with the consequences.

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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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