The battle lines have been drawn for the election of the next Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The election to elect the new Secretary General will climax the next executive council meeting of the UNTWO schedule to take place in Madrid, Spain between 9th and 12th May, 2017. Madrid is the headquarters of the UNWTO and the Election Day is 12th May, 2017.
In all thirty-three countries (33) form the Executive Council and they will vote to decide the Secretary General of the organization. So far, six candidates from America and Georgia (Eastern Europe), Brazil and Colombia (Latin America), Seychelles and Zimbabwe (Africa) and South Korea (Asia) have submitted their candidatures to contest for the headship of the UNWTO.
From Georgia, Zurab Pololikashvili has shown strong desire to win the coveted position. Pololikashvili previously served the Government of Georgia in various capabilities, including the position of Deputy External Affairs Minister. Through that position, he gained a lot of insight into public service, foreign policies and international relations. Zurab Polollikashvilli also served as Ambassador of Georgia to Spain as well as permanent Representative of his country to the World Tourism Organization.
From Brazil comes Marcio Favilla, who currently serves as Executive Director for Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations at the UNWTO Headquarters since 2014. Between 2010 and 2013, Mr. Favilla was appointed the head of Competitiveness, External Relations and Partnership Department of the World Tourism body.
Colombia fielded Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente as their candidate for the coveted position at the UNWTO. As Ambassador of Colombia to the Republic of Korea with concurrent Accreditation to the Philippines and Mongolia (2011-2013) Mr. Sanclemente wield tremendous experience and influence in world diplomacy and international relations. Back home where he was President of the Hotel and Tourism Association of Colombia (COTELCO) (2002-2011), President of the Small and Medium Enterprises Business Association (1994-1999) as well as President of the Colombian Business Association Council (1998-1999). Mr. Sanclemente again served as Minister for Economic Development (1999-2000) in addition to his appointment as Minister-Designate for Work, Agriculture Foreign Trade in his home country. He studied Industrial Engineering at the Javeriana University in Bogota. He also studied Economics at Georgetown University. He holds a Masters’ Degree in Economics from American University in Washington DC.
The two candidates from Africa are Mr Alain St Ange from the island paradise of Seychelles and Dr. Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe.
Alain St Ange has been working in the Seychelles Tourism sector since 2009. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board. He was again appointed first President of the Indian Ocean islands regional Organization for tourism in 2012. In the same year He took over as Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture, a position he resigned after years of service.
Dr. Walter Mzembi is the Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism. He is also a member of Masvingo South House of Assembly Member.
South Korea’s Madam Young- Shim Dho works as Chairperson of the UN World Tourism Organization Sustainability Tourism for Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) Foundation. She has been the brain behind the Thank You Small Library projects for the ST-EP Foundation. She has supervised the construction of over 80 0f such libraries in mostly third world countries since 2007. Madam Dho has served in various important positions including that of the Korean National Assembly in addition to the being Ambassadors of Cultural Cooperation, Tourism and Sports in her home country.
From the background of the six candidates, it appears they all have the wherewithal to head the World Tourism body. However as it happens in every election, some of the candidates stand tall given their exposure, influence and connection in the body politic of the UNWTO.
One of such personalities is the Brazilian Marcio Favilla. Mr Favilla is currently part of the UNWTO establishment from where has worked since 2010. He is in the inner circles of the outgoing Secretary General, Mr Taleb Rifai. From well informed source he was instrumental in the creation of the Special Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations Office as well as the competitiveness, External Relations and Partnership Department at the UNWTO headquarters. Mr. Rifai handpicked Mr. Favilla as head given the latter’s special qualities.
The Georgian candidate, Mr. Pololikashvili is also very strong in the contest. He has a wealth of experience in world tourism activities having served as Georgia’s Permanent Representative to the UNWTO and Ambassador to Spain. Through their appointment Mr. Pololikashvili’s influence and knowledge in the world tourism diplomacy soared and he also commands considerable influence compared to his compatriots.
Madam young-shin Dhon is a strong personality in world tourism. As the only feminine candidate, her selfless devotion to the promotion of the Sustainable Tourism in the Elimination of Poverty (ST-EP) project and her constant interface with the developing world in the provision of Thank You Libraries has heightened her pedigree.
Coming to Africa, a very intriguing and disturbing character assassination and lobbying of the African Union is rearing its ugly head and once again it puts Africa in a bad light. It is in bad taste. Suddenly a Zimbabwean source is claiming that Dr. Walter Mzembi, the Zimbabwean Tourism Minister is the preferred candidate from Africa. The source claims that the African Union unanimously endorsed the candidature of Dr. Walter Mzembi against the Seychelles candidate, Alain St Ange.
Now let’s look at this, Alain St Ange with the tacit support of the government of Seychelles submitted his application and candidature on the 18th of January 2017, whilst Dr. Mzembi together with his application and letter of support from Zimbabwean authorities brought his application on the 4th March 2017. The irony is that Seychelles has not withdrawn its support for their candidate. If the AU as claimed by Zimbabwe solely endorsed Dr Mzembi, why should it take a Zimbabwean source to do the bidding for the continental body instead of the latter?
This dirty politics which is synonymous with Africa should cease. It is disgracing the continent of Africa. The AU must clear the air on this matter. The irony is that Latin America is fielding two candidates from Brazil and the Colombia and nobody is hearing such clear case of undermining. There were two candidates from Eastern Europe- Armenia, Georgia and nothing of such unwarranted attacks from one candidate is happening. The Armenian Candidate has however pulled out of the competition.
So what is wrong with Africa? Dr. Mzembi appears desperate. He is alleged to have criticized the incumbent Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rafai of favouring some candidates. Instead of pointing accusing fingers at his perceived detractors Mr. Mzembi should concentrate efforts at improving the international image of his own country-Zimbabwe and the bad press that continues to emerge from that country. The image of the contestant’s country goes a long way to improve his or her chances at such global contest.
It should dawn on the likes of Dr. Mzembi that in the forthcoming election, the influence of the candidate’s mother countries in the world affairs and the influence of super power interplay will prove a decisive factor in determining the overall winner. So Mzembi and his Zimbabwean biased apparatus should not only look at Alain St. Ange and Seychelles but beyond.
In looking at who takes the mantle of Secretary General of UNWTO, the world should also applaud in admiration the performance of the outgoing boss of the world tourism body, Dr. Taleb Rafai the Jordanian diplomat. He has played a no mean role in shaping world tourism. Dr. Rifai has made UNWTO attractive and efficient. His knowledge of world tourism products and their sustainability speaks volumes of the legacy he is bequeathing the united nations specialized agency he headed for a considerable number of years. He has left a big shoe whose filling will provide a daunting task for his of the successor.
In the meantime, industry watchers and stakeholders will keep a close eye on the May 12 Elections as the Executive Council members with voting right goes to the polls to pick who becomes the next Secretary General of UNWTO. And whatever the outcome is, we hope that it unites the candidates in a stronger resolve in propelling world tourism to greater heights. We wish all a healthy competition and may the best candidate win.
FORMER PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER, GHANA TOURISM AUTHORITY