Monday, June 4, 2012

Global Impact: UN Accolades of Robert Mugabe Causes Canada to Withdraw from WTO

Canada has formally withdraw from the United Nations World Tourism Office (UNWTO), a move it said was formalized this week over the agency's recognition of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe as being representative of international tourism.

The UNWTO announced that it gave an Open Letter on Travel and Tourism to the presidents of Zimbabwe and Zambia on May 29, in recognition of a tripartite agreement with both countries on the hosting of the 20th Session of the UN General Assembly in Victoria Falls, which straddles the borders of both countries.

Yet, the recognition of Mugabe at a UN event was enough for Baird, who called it the "last straw" for Canada's participation in the UNWTO.

COMMENT: Mugabe is currently under a United States and European Union travel ban because of extensive human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. 

Sadly, Mugabe has been in power for more than three decades and has been blamed for his country's economic collapse, resulting in food and fuel shortages, rampant inflation, high poverty and unemployment.

US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commenting on the UNWTO's action said, "The UN has hit a new low with the naming of Mugabe as a UN tourism envoy, as if North Korea chairing the Conference on Disarmament and Cuba serving as vice president of the Human Rights Council had not been enough...The UN’s legitimization of brutal dictators is a disgrace. Mugabe’s terrible human rights record and intentionally-ruinous economic policies have made him the subject of US and EU sanctions—including a travel ban. This UN honor for Mugabe comes just days after the newly reappointed, anti-Israel, anti-Western UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the lifting of international sanctions on Zimbabwe. The continued rewards the UN bestows upon the world’s dictators has reached the point of being absurd.

Despite Canada's political strength in promptly and publicly criticizing Mugabe for any UN recognition and in withdrawing from the UNWTO and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen's strong statement, there was understandably no similar criticism expressed by the Obama Administration.