Count Down to UNWTO General Assembly, it’s not about Zimbabwe and Mzembi

The People’s Republic of China will be the host City for the UNWTO General Assembly. Hundred and fifty-seven countries, more than five hundred Affiliate Organisations and hundreds of global media will converge in this beautiful Chinese City for this elective General Assembly which will see Georgia’s candidate Mr Zurab Pololikashivili seeking confirmation from the General Assembly to replace Dr. Taleb Rifai. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry will lead a high-powered delegation that will participate in this elective General Assembly. The last elective General Assembly having been held ironically by Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2013 at which the outgoing Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai was unanimously endorsed for his second and final term, with the unequivocal support of his erstwhile friend Dr. Mzembi who is leading the reform agenda of the very same statutes that affirmed Rifai. Zimbabwe’s position is consistent with its desire to seek reform of the UN systems, including the reform of the United Nations and its Security Council architecture where President Mugabe is championing the inclusion of two Permanent Seats for Africa. Will Mzembi succeed with his reform agenda of one of the building blocks of the UN Systems? We caught up with him at his Tourism Headquarters for more insight into this….
  1. Ahead of the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly to be held in Chengdu, China from the 11th to 16th of September 2017, what is the African Agenda to this General Assembly?

This General Assembly is an elective one as much as the 20th Session held in Victoria Falls and Livingstone co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2013 was, which handed the outgoing Secretary General his 2nd term. This General Assembly seeks to confirm by voting the Secretary General Elect, Mr Zurab Pololikashivili, who emerged the lead candidate at the 105th Executive Council meeting held on the 12th of May 2017 in Madrid, Spain.

Africa’s Agenda starts with the 60th Commission for Africa where our quota of ten Executive Council seats will come up for re-election amongst ourselves and the noting of members serving their terms up to 2019.

There is growing interest in elective positions by Member States, who in the past have been passive in this regard. I hope they can be supported in their quest for positions.

Zimbabwe has expressed interest to come back into the Executive Council from which it stood down in 2013 to concentrate on its Chairmanship of the Commission for Africa, after two consecutive terms which ends with our Commission sitting in Chengdu, the People’s Republic of China. We will also be seeking to deliberate Africa’s continental tourism as captured by the African Union Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want” and aligning this vision to the global tourism Agenda under the leadership that emerges in Chengdu.

  1. What exactly is the global agenda to the man on the streets served by this sector?

It is still elective to the extent that it is at this General Assembly that the Secretary General be confirmed by an elective ballot. But this aside, 2017 is a special year in that for the third time in fifty years we have been honoured by the designation of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and we will be proceeding as Zimbabwe to the United Nations General Assembly to participate in programmes and events related to this. Topical issues that have ceased us in the most recent past include: tourism and security, operationalisation of SDGs going forward to 2030 to which we are assigned Goal number 8, 12 and 14, however, tourism cross – cuts all the seventeen SDGs. We are also going to look at the Global Code of Ethics that we seek to transform into a Convention. I hope this will be the General Assembly that will unpack for the upcoming UNGA 2017, resolutions that will create greater understanding and support for this sector whose export potential can beat that of fuels and chemicals into first position in terms of ranking. This is a sector that employs nearly three hundred million people globally, and is a solution to unemployment. For us in Africa it is so relevant to the extent that Europe’s challenge for example with illegal migration from Africa, could be mitigated by this low hanging fruit with an already established biodiversity product that just requires a “marshal plan” of sorts to generate more employment and stem the tide.

Some countries are alleging self-interest by Zimbabwe over its unhappiness with electoral processes. What is your comment on that?

It can’t be self-interest to the extent that I am back at work after a one year sojourn with the full support of my government and the African Union. In fact my government has complimented me for flying the country and continental flags high under very difficult circumstances. I am fully and happily employed in a sector that I love, but one of the hallmarks of true and authentic leadership is not turning your back on an organisation that clearly is laden with reform challenges. These were brought to the fore by my own participation in its elective processes which I have aptly captured in the documents I have circulated to the UNWTO Membership. At no stage have I been personal – in fact, I congratulated Mr Zurab Pololikashivili on his victory subject to confirmation. However, this does not negate the need to interrogate our statutes and processes so that we reassert the integrity of the organisation. It is not an affront to the Secretariat who appear to be leading a personal crusade against my person and my country. It is actually good for the outgoing Secretary General’s legacy to conclude this matter through a confirmation ballot so that if endorsed, Mr Zurab Pololikashivili will be able to commence his duties with confidence, clear conscience and support of the Membership of UNWTO.

  1. So where does this leave you and your elective ambitions?

My options remain open to any possibilities and eventualities. Remember, this is an unconcluded process until the General Assembly deals with the matter, and I hope the delegates will take into consideration the concerns we have raised to address the electoral anomalies. If Mr. Zurab Pololikashivili is confirmed, so be it, but we want it clearly understood that we cannot, and should not be content with flawed processes and prejudices that should be corrected in the first instance.
I will remain his shadow, and I will be willing to share with him my experiences, thoughts and indeed vision for the future evolution of UNWTO, and in fulfillment of our own aspirations as the African Union who sponsored my candidature for this position. So, it’s not going to be Mzembi – the elephant in the room which is what the Secretariat seem to suggest. If Mr. Zurab Pololikashivili fails to get the two-thirds majority vote, the Executive Council must reflect deeply and carefully about the best way forward for the organization and global tourism. I am on record in saying, the electoral processes revert to the point where the flaws and prejudices occurred, which, marred the outcome. Let me just say it is by no means certain that I would be myself available to participate in any subsequent re-run. It is extremely unfortunate that the Secretariat that I worked with for nearly ten years is still unable to understand me and the principles that I stand for notwithstanding their claims of friendship – this is not about me, it is about our organization and its integrity.

  1. Honourable Minister, you missed victory by two votes which means you had a lot of support even going beyond Africa. What message do you have for those who supported you?

Well, in the first round tourism won and the best man carried the day. Thereafter, other elements entered the equation and it was no-longer the best vision, the most comprehensive way forward for global tourism which the leadership of my campaign represented. All this generated massive support, including from countries way beyond the African continent. Let me take this opportunity to thank all those countries for their support and their encouragement, and to assure them that whatever might happen in Chengdu, my commitment to global tourism remains unyielding. I will work assiduously to make sure that my reform vision finds expression in whatever outcome. I represent a new generation of leadership which has understood the need for transformation, equal opportunity and democratization of institutions that were founded to serve humanity

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Author: 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.

, Count Down to UNWTO General Assembly, it’s not about Zimbabwe and Mzembi, Buzz travel | eTurboNews |Travel News