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October 17, 2017

UNWTO: “Unlikely situation” according to Taleb Rifai on Georgia’s nominee Zurab Pololikashvili for Secretary General?


El Salvador and Honduras will be the host countries for the 61st meeting of the Regional Commission for the Americas of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) this week.

On May 30-31 agenda 12 on the agenda will be the preparation for the upcoming 22nd session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization General Assembly at the Intercontinental City Hotel in Chengdu, China. The General Assembly will meet September 11-16, 2017.

At the recently concluded UNWTO Executive Council meeting in Madrid, the Council voted to nominate Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvili from Georgia as the next UNWTO Secretary General. This nomination has to be confirmed by the General Assembly in Chengdu with a two-third majority by all attending UNWTO member countries.

In the past, this was routinely done with an open vote, but Ambassadors Pololikashvili nomination is not without controversy.

Earlier today the current Secretary General Dr.Taleb Rifai told eTurboNews what he thinks: “We have no reason to believe that the General Assembly (GA) will not confirm the selected nominee. As has always been the case in the past, the candidate nominated by the Executive Council, we believe will be confirmed by the GA. In the “unlikely situation”, that would not be the case, then it is the responsibility of the GA, as the UNWTO supreme organ, to decide on next steps.”

eTurboNews received a lot of feedback suggesting the confirmation will not be without a fight this time. Such feedback includes allegations of unethical deal cuttings by foreign ministries or heads of states with Georgia unrelated to travel and tourism and in exchange for votes. It includes possible upcoming law suites against executive council decisions and procedures. It includes the allegation of unfair access and bribery.

Bribery is perhaps the most well-known form of corruption. In many countries, companies can now be prosecuted for bribery offenses like offering government officials free tickets to events.

Receiving bribes in exchange for votes has been a sad fact not only in governments but also at global organizations including FIFA.

On May 10, 2017 Atletico Madrid won 2:1 against Real Madrid at the Champions League Semi-Final Football Game at Vicente Calderon Stadium Madrid.  May 10, 2017 was also the first day members of the UNWTO executive council were meeting at the Melia Castilla Hotel in Madrid. The hottest issue for the council earlier this month was the election of a new secretary-general. The day of the election was May 12, the last day of the executive council meeting.

The Georgian Candidate Zurab Pololikashvili is a member of Real Madrid and according to his CV he was CEO of FC Dinamo Tbilisi for 10 years, from 2001-2011. Dinamo Tbilisi is the leading professional football team in Georgia.

Without any doubts, Ambassador Pololikashvil loves football and knows how the spirit of bonding through sports could get him closer to people he needed to impress. A study in 2007 by the University of Alberta in Edmonton finds sports is fuel for friendship. Ambassador Pololikasvil needed to get executive members on “his team of friends.”

As a member of the Real Madrid football team, Ambassador Pololikashvil was able to do the impossible. He secured a block of tickets for this popular sold out football game.

Who would he want to share such tickets with? Naturally, you share tickets with your family, co-workers, close friends or with those that are important to you and you want to become friends with.

Who was important for Ambassador Pololikashvi on May 10? Voting members of the Executive Council would have most likely been on the top of such a list.

According to an inside source in the diplomatic community in Madrid, Georgian embassy officials in Madrid got to work and invited selected UNWTO executive council members that could join their Ambassador candidate Pololikashvi for the Real Madrid football game on May 10.

A block of tickets was delivered last minute by Georgian officials to embassies in Madrid. It went to embassies representing countries that were critical for the Georgian candidate to secure votes from. It went to embassies of countries that were members of the UNWTO executive committee.

How can the acceptance of such tickets given by Georgian Ambassador Pololikashvi be interpreted?
It happened during an ongoing UN meeting. It happened when stakes were high on who would be elected as the next leader of the tourism world?

It happened when 4 other candidates were campaigning and explaining their agenda on how to make world tourism better.

Was the football game just a night out with friends? One needs to look who these “friends” were – and this is for an article in the near future.

The chair of the executive council in Madrid was the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, Abulfas Garaye. There are two burning questions?

1) Did executive council members disclose to the chair prior to voting they had received tickets or an invitation to the football game by the Georgian Candidate or the Georgian Embassy regardless if this invitation was accepted or not?

2) Did executive council members or anyone involved in the voting process disclosed prior to voting that they knew about others attending the game or others having received tickets or an invitation from Georgia?

If yes, shouldn’t Abulfas Garaye not have moved forward with the vote or at least cautioned voters?

eTurboNews asked the same questions to Executive Council members and candidates and has some surprising answers to share with readers in the near future. eTurboNews also asked this question to the Georgian nominee. There was no response.

According to legal experts in several executive council countries disclosing of such an activity would have been an obligation and a legal requirement.

Taking all of it in consideration and just in case – shouldn’t the 61st meeting of the Regional Commission for the Americas of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) prepare the General Assembly for the “unlikely situation”?

At this time UNWTO rules only say the General Assembly would decide on next steps in case of rejection. Such steps are not defined and could create last minute confusion and chaos if the “unlikely situation” becomes reality.

The 106th and 107th sessions of the UNWTO Executive Council will also take place in September 2017 in Chengdu, China within the framework of the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly. The 106th session will elect a new Executive Council before the start of the General Assembly. After the conclusion of the General Assembly, the newly elected Executive Council will meet for the 107th session in Chengdu.

What about putting a mechanism in place on how a new election for a Secretary General could move forward in case of a GA assembly rejecting a nominee? Shouldn’t this be a discussion point at the Regional Commission for the Americas this week?

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