Did the next UNWTO Election Manipulation just begin discreetly?
“It’s very strange to move the election to January. It’s the first time it ever happened.
The objective is clear.”, this was the comment by a minister and UNWTO insider who did not want to be named.
Members of the 112th Executive Council Members of the UNWTO are scheduled to meet in person in Tbilisi, Georgia September 15-17. Rumors are the Georgian Government chartered a plane to bring UNWTO staff and the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvil to Georgia. Zurab Pololikashvil is a native from Georgia and before he was Secretary-General, he was the ambassador for Georgia in Madrid, Spain.
Delegates will have a chance to forget the restrictions Coronavirus is putting on most regions in the world, and specifically on the travel and tourism industry. The center of all the tourism fun for its top leaders will be in Georgia.
There is a good reason for Pololikashvil to make sure delegates will have a great time. It will be about his bid for a second term as Secretary-General from 2022-2025.
He has a plan, and this plan is to make it almost impossible to have competition for this important race.
Here is what the plan is: A drastic change of rules in the procedure done very discretely, and decided next week in Georgia by the Executive Council.
The Executive Council is UNWTO’s governing board, responsible for ensuring that the Organization carries out its work and adheres to its budget. It meets at least twice a year and is composed of Members elected by the General Assembly in a ratio of one for every five Full Members.
It means 20% of the UNWTO members have the power to nominate the next secretary-general and make other important decisions also for the remaining 80% members.
Currently, the Chair of the Executive Council is held by Kenya, First Vice-Chair Italy, and the second vice chair Cabo Verde.
Current members of the Executive Council are:
5. Cabo Verde
9. Côte d’Ivoire
24. Republic of Korea
26. Russian Federation
27. Saudi Arabia
The term for the current Secretary-General will expire on 31 December 2021. It is therefore incumbent on the General Assembly to appoint a Secretary-General for the period 2022-2025 at its twenty-fourth session of the UNWTO General assembly due to being held in Morocco in September/October 2021.
Consequently, in accordance with Article 22 of the Statutes and with Rule 29 of the Rules of Procedure of the Executive Council, the Executive Council will be required at its 113th session (1st semester 2021, in Spain, date to be determined) to recommend a nominee to the General Assembly.
There has not been a case in the UNWTO history where such recommendations were not followed, so it’s important for Pololikashvil to be recommended.
The travel and tourism industry is going through its biggest crisis ever: Coronavirus
The attention in the tourism world is on how to beat the virus. The attention by the Secretary-General seems to be is on assuring he will win a second term without a competition.
Here is what he is planning: Moving the deadline for receipt of applications for this race closer. His plan is to make November 18, 2020, to be the last day a country good position a candidate to compete with him.
While countries may expect an extension in this deadline, the Secretary-General wants to shorten the time frame several months earlier – and only 2 months from the upcoming Georgia meeting.
No competition means re-election, so the formula is brilliant.
If the Secretary-General gets his way, this would be the new timetable:
a) 18 September 2020: Vacancy announcement to be posted on the UNWTO website and note verbale to be sent to all Members indicating the deadline for receipt of applications.
(b) 18 November 2020 (date to be confirmed7): Deadline for receipt of applications, i.e., two months before the inauguration of the 113th session of the Executive Council in Madrid, Spain, on 19 January 2021 (date to be confirmed).
(c) Upon the official opening of the candidatures, the candidates are informed about the validity of their candidature.
(d) 15 December 2020 (date to be confirmed): Note verbale to be issued announcing the received candidatures (deadline for the dissemination of candidatures is 30 calendar days before the inauguration of the 113th Executive Council session).
(e) 19-20 January 2021 (dates to be confirmed8): Selection of the nominee by the Executive Council at its 113th session to be held in Madrid, Spain, the headquarters city of the Organization.
(f) June 2021: Submission of recommendation to the General Assembly 40 calendar days before the day on which the 24th General Assembly session begins.
(g) August 2021: Appointment of the Secretary-General for the period 2022-2025 by the 24th session of the General Assembly
Executive members can be looking forward to being dined and wined in beautiful Georgia. It may be difficult and seen as nondiplomatic or impolite to oppose this proposed change of rule. It can only be hoped that executive member countries can see through this attempt and assure a fair and open election instead.
It’s not about disappointing friends, this is the world tourism industry.
Zurab Pololikashvil while in office always gave most of his attention to the member countries of the Executive Committee. This effort may now be paying off leaving 80% of other UNWTO members in the dark.
The 2018 election was also not without criticism about the fair play in that election.
Click here to download the Agenda item 6 by the 112th Executive Council showing what is going on. It will explain the concern raised in this article.