UNWTO Opens the Door for Legal Dictatorship

Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

At today’s Executive Council meeting of the 25th UNWTO General Assembly being held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, succeeded in what many said would be impossible and ridiculous.

Employees, friends, and family of current Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili arrived in Uzbekistan yesterday on two chartered planes to lobby for the ratification of an altered document presented to the UNWTO Executive Council today, and for ratification tomorrow by two-thirds of the full General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations affiliated agency designed to represent a global voice for tourism issues.

It appears again not clear for members that the with this document is a selfish one for Zurab to increase the two term limit to unlimited terms to run as Secretary-General.

This and the other irregularities Zurab has worked through to become SG for 2 terms already is another reason for key countries such as the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia among others not to join this world body.

Other major tourism destinations such as Germany and Spain are opposed to this, but with many smaller countries from Africa or Latin America voting, this makes it appear that democratic principles are being observed in this UN agency.

A Giant Leap Backwards

Today, a giant step forward is being made to destroy such principles that were made, when the Executive Council gave the green light to allow three or more terms for one person to indefinitely run the UNWTO.

Tomorrow, the UNWTO General Assembly needs a two-thirds majority to approve this recommendation by the Executive Council. Usually, the General Sssembly is seen as a rubber stamp procedure, but it can only be hoped that this ratification may turn out differently.

This is necessary to maintain the reputation and validation of such a global body.

The Uzbekistan Proposal

On the agenda is a “Proposal of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the Renewal of the Mandate of the Secretary General” proposed by the Full Member of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

A letter of support addressed to Zurab is signed by the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Aziz Abdukhakimov, supporting his renewal for a third term.

This is followed by a letter to All Member States of UNWTO outlining its support of Zurab. It requests that the Executive Council and the General Assembly consider renewing the mandate of Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, in accordance with Article 22 of the Statues.

The document goes in great length to describe the work of the Secretary-General, discuss areas of work to be developed in the medium term, and the renewal of the mandate of the Secretary-General.

The document shares that Article 22 of the UNWTO Statues states: “The Secretary-General shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Council and by a two-thirds majority of the Full Members present and voting at the Assembly, for a term of four years. Such appointment shall be renewable.”

It further states that the current Statutes allow the renewal of the mandate of the Secretary-General for a third term, subject to the recommendation of the Executive Council for this appointment.

It goes on to say: In the United Nations Secretariat, the possibility exists for the UN Security Council and General Assembly to review the Secretary-General’s maximum term in office of two five-year mandates. This practice varies in other UN agencies, either with longer mandates or the possibility of renewal for  more than two terms.

Why a Third Term?

The final paragraph states: This exceptional renewal responds to the extraordinary circumstances that the Secretary-General had to face during most of his mandate and that delayed the implementation of the renewal agenda he has promoted since the beginning of his mandate. The renewal of the mandate will be a guarantor for the stability required by UNWTO to keep advancing its transformation process, to ensure it agility and responsiveness to current challenges and changing global circumstances, and continue to provide valuable services to tis Member States and to the tourism sector.

Basically the document explains that a two years after Zurab initially took office in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 20, 2020, followed by the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11.

Although most organizations have dealt with the pandemic now close to 4 years later, the Secretary-General says he has not had enough time to complete his outlined tasks and this is the reason he is asking for approval of a third term.

“It does not make sense that the way to correct poor leadership is to be rewarded with more time,” said eTN publisher Juergen Steinmetz.

It waits to be seen how Japan and other nations who were against these extensions will see this change and whether or not they will maintain their membership. Membership fees in the UNWTO are based on gross domestic product, so this could have a direct effect on UNWTO.

About the author

Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

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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