WTN for Decency in the UNWTO Election
Open letter by former UNWTO Secretary-General
Francesco Frangialli and Dr.Taleb Rifai
Dear colleagues and friends,
We hope this message reaches you in good health in these testing times.
We are writing to you today, in our capacity as two former Secretaries-General of our esteemed UNWTO, having served in office for a combined 20 years. We are concerned about the impact that the international spread of Covid-19 is having on the upcoming elections of the Secretary-General for 2022-2025
At the last meeting held in Georgia, the Executive Council agreed on a tight timetable for the upcoming elections of the next Secretary-General. It was agreed, based on the recommendation of the Secretariat, that the elections be held on 18th January 2021, instead of during May which has always been the case in the past. The main reason for this recommendation was that it would better coincide with FITUR in Madrid since the rules and regulations state that elections will always be held at headquarters[. To be fair to the Secretariat, it was our understanding that it was also the desire of Spain to schedule the meeting to coincide with FITUR.
The premise for that decision has changed. Spain has decided to postpone FITUR until 19-23 May 2021. This situation should suggest that you all reconsider the wisdom of this decision, particularly in the light of the fact that Tourism Ministers, like many other public officials around the globe, are experiencing the biggest challenge ever faced by this sector. Ministers are under daily pressure from public and private stakeholders to re-open their borders and relaunch travel. Considering, therefore, the current preoccupation and priorities of each Minister, and in the interest of public safety, we are making this appeal to you.
We strongly recommend that the elections of the Secretary-General 2022-2025 be postponed, to be held concurrently with the General Assembly in Morocco (September/October).
The rationale is as follows:
1 . The UNWTO has always held the first Council of the year in the spring, during late April or May. The reason for this timing is that it would give both the secretariat and the Council the opportunity to approve the budget of the previous year (2020 in this case). This is timed to allow the auditors to complete their work in early April, to have this audit available for submission on time for the General Assembly, which is held in September or October.
2 . The elections require an in person meeting and not a virtual one. The rules and regulations governing the election process mean that, especially considering the principle of secret voting, it would be extremely difficult to execute this in a virtual online meeting. If the plan is to have ambassadors represent their countries, which is especially unfair for those nations that do not have embassies in Madrid, this would compromise the integrity of the elections.
3. With the current situation of the global pandemic, the world is postponing such events, and certainly not bringing them foreword.
We are concerned and want to maintain the correctness and integrity of the Secretary-General elections. For all these reasons, we are both kindly suggesting that the UNWTO reconsider the decision taken in Georgia.
We recommend that you move the next meeting of the Executive Council, where elections are held, to coincide with the General Assembly in September/October 2021. As an alternative, the Council could respect the desire of Spain, the host country of the UNWTO headquarters, to still have the elections coincide with FITUR in May 2021.
With regards to the candidacy, the current position is that everyone had to abide by the decision of the Council to submit their application in the short timeframe agreed upon in Georgia. We believe that, in fairness to others that may still wish to submit their candidacy,the cut-off date for submitting candidate applications should, at a minimum, be moved to March 2021. This timing has been the case in all previous elections.
We are naturally copying the Secretariat on this communication. We have been apprised informally of the insistence of this Secretariat to keep the schedule of meetings as decided in Georgia. This is the reason that we are addressing you publicly and directly.
We thank you all dearly for your kind understanding and consideration of the wellbeing and integrity of the UNWTO. We are hoping to see you at FITUR in Madrid in May, and certainly at the General Assembly in Morocco in September/October 2021.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UNWTO Secretary-General Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili
Hon. Ministers, Members of the World Tourism Organization
Dear Secretary General
We are writing on behalf of the World Tourism Network (WTN), broad global coalition of organizations and individuals representing thousand+ Travel & Tourism stakeholders from more than 120 countries.
Today, after an in depth global zoom discussion, we resolved to respectfully urge you to listen to the calls from your predecessors Francesco Frangialli and Dr. Taleb Rifai, as well as former Assistant Secretary General Professor Geoffrey Lipman, and Louis D’Amore, founder and president of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism to defer the election for Secretary General.
The recommendation was to have the election to coincide with the deferred May meeting (May 19-23) of FITUR in Madrid, FITUR was the original reason the meeting was changed to January. Now FITUR is no longer happening in January.
We strongly support the rational proposal by the former Secretaries General to postpone the meeting to May or to the date and venue of the General Assembly in Morocco in September 2021.
The reason for this request from your predecessors was to recognize that a fair election,would allow potential candidates time to organize with employers, family and their governments as well as for Ministers to ensure their presence for the election.
It would also not disrupt the focus on the COVID and Climate Crises that the whole world is now prioritizing.
Maintaining the artificial January date could give an appearance of convenient haste that would reduce, if not eliminate competition. The more so, given that FITUR itself – the original reason for January – has been postponed until May.
We are sure you would not want to present any impression of an unethical use of procedures, which could reflect adversely on the organization which is the guardian of the Code of Tourism Ethics.
We have copied this open letter to the Ministers of Tourism of UNWTO Member States and to Affiliate Members, as well as to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
We look forward to your constructive response.