Launch of the bid by The Hon Dr Walter Mzembi for the post of Secretary General of the UNWTO

Hon Mzembi, Dr Taleb Rifai flanked by Madrid-based representatives of Ethiopian Airways - strong supporters of Dr Mzembi´s African bid for UNWTO Secretary General post
Hon Mzembi, Dr Taleb Rifai flanked by Madrid-based representatives of Ethiopian Airways – strong supporters of Dr Mzembi´s African bid for UNWTO Secretary General post

Back to my personal journey

After successfully serving in the Executive Council from 2009-2013, Africa asked me, unanimously, to lead it as Chairperson of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa, and to drive the agenda for creating greater awareness at the African Union of the need for policy consummation and institutionalization of Tourism and its subsequent integration into Africa’s Agenda 2063 – the continental 50 year vision. I recall Africa unanimously pushing for an automatic re-deployment of the current Secretary General in recognition of the bold stance he had taken to bring the General Assembly to the Victoria Falls – notwithstanding fierce resistance from some Member States, opposed to Zimbabwe being accorded the honour of hosting the 2013 General Assembly. Indeed, it was from the Zambian end of the Victoria Falls that Dr Rifai’s mandate was so deservedly renewed for another four years.

The clarion call for an African Secretary General was ignited thereon, and, being an ardent believer in sound corporate governance, I stepped down from the Executive Council so as to avoid being conflicted by remaining on the Council whilst pursuing my elective ambitions to lead the Organisation after Taleb.

The Renewal and Reform Agenda

In a very real sense, my candidature – Africa’s candidature – is premised on a commitment to bring about renewal and reform of our Organisation. It challenges, therefore, a long tradition of bureaucratic succession. Whilst continuity certainly provides a sense of stability it does not necessarily unlock growth nor does it bring new thinking or fresh ideas. Nor does it provide adequate impetus for the renewal and reform now required. This is a Member-States- subscribed organisation which should see more countries joining its ranks rather than opting-out. Such membership growth will only come out of dynamic value propositions and an effective response to members’ aspirations and challenges. Inward-looking organisations are candidates for corporate-incest which can deter rather than attract membership.

Equally, we must disabuse the notion of an organisation patronized by a few States, or others overloaded with key deployments. We should strive for equity all the time for the sake of inclusivity and, ultimately, for the integrity of the UNWTO. We should even envisage a future that reviews voting rights in order to attract a fresh perspective and interest into the Organisation. This approach requires change agents, and even our host, Spain, I am sure, has an interest in seeing this Organisation transform into a bigger, more representative church and a more recognised brand- leader within the UN family.

As a candidate, I have applied my mind to this and have even engaged Federal States like the USA, Australia, Canada and the UK, amongst others, with varying degrees of interest. We want them back inside our organisation, but we must be creative in answering their expectations. If I am given an opportunity to lead the UNWTO, I am confident that, having started the dialogue, I will be better positioned to bring those discussions to a successful conclusion.

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