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UNWTO Manipulation Exposed Again: The Votes Are In

, UNWTO Manipulation Exposed Again: The Votes Are In, eTurboNews | eTN
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili
Written by Galileo Violini

In November 17 Galileo Violini asked why UNWTO Elections Should Become an Urgent Concern for the UN and Heads of State?

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Today Mr. Violini is taking the microphone, warning about a third manipulation by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Polikashvili in progress. eTurboNews asked readers and the votes are now in.

Mr. Violini writes: A couple of years ago, I followed the saga of the second election of Mr. Polikashvili as Secretary General of UNWTO. My interest in Tourism policy was tangential.

Certainly, I was attracted by several peculiarities, that did not fit with my experience in public policy.

That saga was characterized by many first-of-a-kind actions, some more spectacular, than others. Eventually, Mr. Polikashvili was reelected by an overwhelming majority, 77% if one compares the votes in favor with those against.

It is true that this election’s impact on world tourism took place during the worst part of a COVID-19 infection in a city that was also fighting a weather disaster at the time. It is also true that a manipulated Executive Council meeting in Georgia contributed to this confirmation vote in Madrid, mostly attended by political ambassadors, overlooking the presence of the opposing candidate from Bahrain.

It could have been a worthwhile victory since it was followed by an earthquake in the organization, which created an office in Riyadh, and remarkably increased the weight of Saudi Arabia in the UNWTO.

Later, the war in Ukraine offered another opportunity to confirm the uniqueness of the Organization. While the United Nations has been very careful in implementing expulsion sanctions, in practice there was only a vote of the General Assembly concerning Russia’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council, UNWTO was an exception.

Last year, an Extraordinary UNWTO Assembly was convened, following the request of Guatemala, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

The Assembly decided to suspend Russia, which withdrew itself from the organization before the vote. Technically, the two facts are not equivalent, since the effects are different.

The suspension would have had an immediate effect if Russia had been removed by the Assembly, whereas the withdrawal came into effect only one year later and, leaving the way open to re-join.

The triumphant result announced was 78.4 %, well above the 2/3 majority requested.

Of course, in this case, and indeed more than for the second election of Mr. Polikashvili, if one looks at the numbers, it should raise eyebrows.

Participants in the assembly were 99, Votes in favor of the suspension: 40, against 11. And those 40 countries that were represented represent about 25% of the membership. This is far from representing the same percentage of the world’s population.

Of course, tourism in the rest of the world does not care.

Mr. Polikashvili had other surprises up his sleeve. A recent article published on eTurboNews warns about the possibility of a change in the bylaws of the organization, allowing a third term for UNWTO Secretary General

Should a Secretary General elected by 53 % of the members deserve to be reelected for a third, or fourth time? Why not for life?

What is the situation at the UN about a third mandate?

Of course, I did not ask ChatGPT “How many UN agencies allow three elections of their Director General or Secretary-General”. The (expected) reply is that they are not.

If UNTWO was a Club, it may be fine. However, it belongs to the United Nations system.

A lack of credibility affects the whole system. The public’s perception of the UN system must be preserved, particularly in this complicated geopolitical environment.

UNWTO will make the decisions it wants, but its members are the same states that belong to the UN and to other UN agencies.

If one believes that the UN is important, as I do, one must worry. The pandemic already showed certain weaknesses of the system, such as the lack of capacity of the WTO to manage the problem of vaccine patents, despite a large majority wanting it.

In an ideal world, a Secretary General who feels himself or herself compelled to change the bylaws should avoid the suspicion of a possible conflict of interest simply by not running for the third mandate.  However, it is unlikely that this would happen in this case.

Therefore, if the bylaws change, hopefully, the member states will reflect on this aspect at the moment of the election.

Hopefully, the Ministers of Tourism will remember that their countries are members of an organization that is part of a system, and their permanent delegates will remember that they represent their countries and are not members of a diplomatic Club in Madrid.

In Zurab’s previous elections, the two previous Secretary Generals claimed that the system was manipulated to eliminate competition for the campaign.

eTurboNews asked readers to comment on the alleged plan by the current UNWTO Secretary-General to run for a third term.

512 responses came in to eTurboNews from the following countries:

Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Northern Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkiye, UK, USA, Zimbabwe.

Two questions were asked:

  1. Should the UNWTO Secretary-General be allowed to change UNWTO rules limiting the SG candidacy to a maximum of two terms?

Out of the 512 votes, 23 readers said yes, and 489 voted no.

Yes votes were received from Australia, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany (2), Haiti, India, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal (2), Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Rep of Cyprus, Rwanda, Sweden (2), Turkiye, and the USA ( 2)

2. Should the UNWTO Secretary-General be allowed to run for a third term if he is able to change the rules allowing a third term?

Out of 512 votes, 10 votes say yes, 502 no. The yes votes are from Australia, Ghana, India, Northern Macedonia, Malta, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, USA.

About the author


Galileo Violini

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