UNWTO race – attempts to scuttle Africa’s chance unearthed
By Freedom Mupanedemo
EF¬FORTS TO scuttle Africa’s glaring chance to assume the stewardship of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) when its secretary-general, Dr Taleb Rifai, officially steps down in May are seemingly intensifying following the last ditch entry into the race by South Korea’s Ambassador Dho Young-Shim.
Ambassador Dho is already in the UNWTO’s top hierarchy as the chairperson of the organ’s Sustainable Tourism for Elimination Poverty (ST-EP) Foundation.
Her entry has, however, raised eyebrows, especially for someone who is in the UN system and her timing to announce herself as one of the contestants to the post well after the official forum for aspiring candidates to announce themselves has lapsed.
Surely, having worked in the UNWTO’s ST-EP foundation for so long, Ambassador Dho is not a novice in this game and her latest move smacks of a person with a more hidden agenda than just contesting for the post of the secretary-general.
The fact that her country through, Ban Ki-moon, headed the United Nations itself indicates sheer greed and a clandestine attempt by Ambassador Dho to have all key international organisations under South Korea’s ambit.
Ambassador Dho is unashamedly trying to snatch votes from Europe and the Americas into her bag by roping in Professor Carlos Vogeler, the current Executive Director for Member Relations at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as her deputy if she wins. Prof Vogeler has been within the UNWTO since 2009 where he also held the position of Regional Director for the Americas at UNWTO.
Analysts have expressed doubts whether the intention by Ambassador Dho is meant to chart a new direction for the betterment of global tourism or was driven by sheer determination by those within the top echelons of the UNWTO to rotate power among themselves for self-gratification.
Since its conception in 1957, the UNWTO has been largely led by its own “people” rising through the ranks until they assume the position of secretary general.
While there are no set rules that the UNWTO secretary-general’s post should be rotated among the continents, it is a fact that only Africa and Asia are still to head this important arm of the UN.
The general feeling is that the time for this global tourism body to be headed by an African has come.
This feeling was bolstered when African heads of state and government unanimously endorsed one candidate in the name of Dr Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe at the African Union summit in Kigali last year.
His vast experience in tourism and his passion to see the growth of this industry for the benefit of Africa and the world was compelling.
But as in any election, the race for the UNWTO job is stiff and fraught with manipulation and heckling.
And Europe, which has held the position of the UNWTO secretary-general for a record 46 years, has already shown interest and intention to push for its own interest in this election by “inviting” Seychelles’ Alain St Ange to contest on an African ticket. A “dog of war” as he has become, St Ange has been on a whirlwind campaign bragging and telling those who care to listen that he was invited by some from Europe to contest and so he “feels the honour” to go for it.
This is despite the fact that he and his island country are in breach of the AU resolution.
So, St Ange is in it and its game on!
It is the candidature of St Ange and the last ditch entry of Ambassador Dho that has miffed neutrals and all those yearning to see the world turning into one global tourism village.
Notwithstanding the fact Asia needs her chance too, Ambassador Dho’s timing and her idea of naming her deputy even before she wins is naturally likely to cause fissures within the UNWTO than turning it into a “formidable organ” as she claims.
By roping in someone else to run with her, Ambassador Dho is probably exposing herself as an unworthy candidate who needs to lean on someone else for her to deliver.
It is a pointer to the already sceptical world that she in her own capacity cannot inject new energy nor can she chart a new direction to turn around this important UN organ.
Their formidable partnership is surely one seemingly sponsored duet meant to derail Africa’s hope but their machinations would be put to test come May.
It is a fact that Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East boast a buoyant tourism performance and market share and this is because these continents had a chance to have one of their own steering the UNWTO ship.
Europe is probably failing to realise that by giving Africa a chance in the form of Dr Mzembi itself presents a potential of building up on an already thriving European tourism economy through the “Visit, Trade and Invest” concept. The UNWTO election is tottering towards the climax and many a tourism enthusiasts are keeping their fingers crossed.
Below is the brief chronicle of the people and continents that once or twice headed the UNWTO since its birth in 1957.
In 1957, the International Union of Official Travel Organization (IUOTO) now World Tourism Organisation (WTO) was formed and Robert Lonati, a Frenchman, assumed office as the first secretary-general of the IUOTO.
His mandate spanned for over 20 years and thereafter, Willbald Pahr from Australia took over and steered the UNWTO ship between 1986 and 1989.
Antonio Enriquez Savignac from Mexico took over the reins between 1990 and 1996 representing Latin America.
France returned with Francesco Frangialli running the UNWTO from 1997 to 2009.
He was replaced by Jordan’s Dr Talib Rifai from the Middle East.
UNWTO General Secretaries
Lobet Lonati (France) 1975-1985
Willibald Pahr (Australia) 1986-1989
Antonio Enriques Savignac (Mexico) 1990-1996
Francesco Frangialli 1997-2009
Taleb Rifai (Jordan) 2010-present.