MADRID: Tourism is directly related to international security, communication, and interaction between people. Tourism must have a seat at the global table, and the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the platform for that within the United Nations. How can the leader of this UNWTO platform be elected by a group of country representatives that care more about getting tickets for a popular football game, are following the orders of their foreign minister, and perhaps therefore are not interested in a discussion and exchange, before voting someone into the highest UN official in the travel and tourism industry?
This is exactly what happened in Madrid during the last UNWTO Executive Council meeting, and it seems only one man is trying to correct it. This man is Dr. Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality from what some say is the most politically-disliked countries – Zimbabwe.
What we should learn here is that it’s not about the country this man represents, it’s about the issue that has merit.
All executive member countries – Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia, and Zambia – were very much aware of controversial issues leading to the vote for a new UNWTO nominee.
During the restricted meeting established by rule so voting members of the Executive Council could discuss qualifications and the presentation of competing candidates the French delegate apparently said: “We heard enough, let’s move to vote.” He wanted to skip a discussion on the presentation and qualification by candidates that competed for the UNWTO Secretary General post. Information received confirmed there was no formal motion and there was no second motion. Instead, there was silence by Executive Council delegates when the French candidate suggested voting without discussion because it was late
The world needs leaders. Tourism ministers, especially those elected to sit on the UNWTO Executive Council, have a responsibility not only to their own country but to the global world of travel and tourism. To make matters worse, the same delegates at an earlier Executive Council meeting in Luxor, Egypt, voted to ban all recordings during the debate, so there would be no official record that this discussion ever took place. Maybe a good legal argument to investigate if such a rule of interpretation is actually allowed at a UN agency is in order.
The world is going into unchartered times, and tourism needs leaders. The delegates of the Executive Council made a mistake to vote without debate and most of them didn’t know they were being watched on SKYPE by the Secretary General nominee.
World peace is at stake, and tourism is a peace industry. Tourism must have its foundation on solid footing. Under the leadership of a duly elected new Secretary General the need to change the process and rules in UNWTO to avoid such an incident in the future is necessary.