Chaos behind the scene: UNWTO General Assembly in Saint Petersburg opens

Chaos behind the scene: UNWTO General Assembly in Saint Petersburg opens

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Let us reclaim our UNWTO!  These voices are getting louder and louder among delegates attending the 23rd UNWTO General Assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia at this time.

According to the World Tourism Organization  (UNWTO), their member States and Affiliate members have warmly welcomed the Secretary Generals  Report to the General Assembly, especially its focus on financial stability, growing the organization’s size and influence and making tourism accessible to all. This is according to the official report presented today by UNWTO Secretary-General  Zurab  Pololikashvili.

Behind the scene, not all delegates are so impressed with the reality presented in the last couple of days by various sources, including World Tourism Wire and eTurboNews

The hottest topic has been recent communications and news about management and administration issues at the  UNWTO Organization. A delegate, who did not want to be identified summarized the concern of many. eTN is publishing these concerns as an op-ed guest-post without comment or editing:

One would assume that we, the UNWTO Member States, would begin to take ourselves and our organization more seriously.

The unpleasant and disturbing information that has been circulating recently triggered many informal discussions on the eve of the opening of the general assembly in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Many representatives, some of them quite concerned and growing increasingly frustrated with the evident and accelerating transformation of this UN organization, were particularly vocal. Following are excerpts from their discussions and comments.  The news and rumors that have been circulating during the past year are embarrassing and unacceptable.

How did we get to this point?

–   Why is Dr. Rifai not coming to the Assembly?

–   What happened to the Deputy Secretary-General

–    The Deputy Secretary-General resigned after just one year in his post. He was deeply disappointed. The resignation of Jaime Cabal Sanclemente, should not be taken lightly. It may be a serious warning sign. Being an honorable man, Cabal Sanclemente will never tell the true reason behind his resignation
Insiders say the true reason was that he was never allowed to do his job, that he was placed under the demeaning authority of unqualified junior officers who have been bullying their way around.

Nevertheless, Sanclemente was perceived by the majority of the staff as the only possible moral and ethical counterweight left in the face of what has quickly become an autocratic regime, much more than a United Nations institution. With him gone now, in addition to other valuable departures of lesser ranks, the Secretariat is sinking deeper and deeper into chaos and mediocrity.

–   UNWTO as an intergovernmental organization is beyond the understanding of this accidental Secretary-General. Being the Chief Executive of a UN institution is not within his grasp. Preserving the achievements of his predecessors is out of his reach. Managing the Secretariat and leading the membership is beyond his capabilities.

–   His limitations are obvious. No one expected him to rise to the level of his predecessors, but his performance is far below the minimum that is required from the Executive Head of an international organization.

–   It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify a UNWTO membership to our governments and taxpayers.

–   The UNWTO Secretary-General is abusing the trust of the Members, improvising as he goes on and adapting the Organization to his own limitations.

–   He claims that innovation is one of his top priorities. Is the UNWTO website a reflection of this innovation?

–   Is this plethora of tech-adventures or start-up competitions what the UNWTO is about now? Is this what our taxpayer’s money is being spent on?

–   He seems to have taken some very bad decisions that will soon prove to be very costly, both in terms of limited resources and of hard-earned reputation.

–  The Organisation is already dedicating important resources, instead of providing services to its members, to defend itself in cases of wrongful and abusive dismissals. Exorbitant legal fees, huge compensations, and fines will, in all likelihood, soon be imposed on all of us by the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labor Organisation

–   None of this is reported to the Members. The Secretary-General is yet to report to the Council – or now to the Assembly – what happened to the Director of Administration and Finance!

– How was the post of the Senior Expert for Business Transformation created and granted?

–   Why is there no director of Administration and Finance now? Who is managing the finances of the Organisation?

–   Why is there no chief of Human Resources, Director for Europe, for the Americas, for Statistics, etc.?

–   Some of the reports about irregularities and ethical issues that are circulating are quite disturbing.

Here are more specific points of current discussions raising eyebrows among many tourism leaders and delegates in St. Petersburg.

The Secretary-General had his driver designated as president of the staff union, taking him to Saint Petersburg among a host of friends and cronies.

–   We are told that the United Nations inspectors have already been called upon to intervene and to recommend action to the UN Secretary-General.

–   Instead of relying on sound advice and support from a competent executive, managerial team, this Secretary-General is now in irresponsible hands. The fate of an entire UN agency is now in such hands.

–   How will the Organization look like at the end of this mandate? How would it by the end of a second mandate?

–   Do we know that a few of us have already considered withdrawal? But let us not do it. This is not the solution.

Let us reclaim our Organization.

A prominent voice concluded :

– Autocratic management is a reflection of other deficiencies.

– We know that the Secretariat is in shambles and that this Secretary-General doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

– We know how he is trying to cajole members and that he is already working actively trying to shape or influence the membership of the Executive Council to his benefit. His goals do not escape any of us.

– We must keep in mind that this institution we all care for is, first and foremost is an intergovernmental organization, not a small-time outfit at the service of any personal or individual ambitions.

If the UNWTO Member States continue to ignore the warning signs, turn a blind eye and tolerate the obvious and continuous deterioration, we can only blame ourselves for the demise and downfall of an institution that took many years of hard work to bring to this status.

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