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Historic meeting gives SG mandate to reinforce the Organization

The recently finished 70th session of the WTO Executive Council decided that the Secretary-General, Mr. Francesco Frangialli, should try to use…

The recently finished 70th session of the WTO Executive Council decided that the Secretary-General, Mr. Francesco Frangialli, should try to use historic opportunity to reinforce the World Tourism Organization. This refers to inviting sovereign, non-member states in the membership of the Organization, whose role will soon be substantially increased with its conversion into a specialized agency of the United Nations.

The Council Members adopted with satisfaction the agreement between the two organizations prepared by the negotiations committee, chaired by Peru and later Jordan. The UN counterpart, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), will meet in July in Geneva to – as expected – also approve the agreement between the United Nations Organization and WTO, which will reaffirm the WTO`s leadership role in the world tourism.

The document will finally have to be adopted by the two highest governing organs – general assemblies – which have their sessions scheduled in the fall of 2003. This will conclude a process that began in 1969, through a resolution of the UN General Assembly calling for the constitution of an inter-governmental organization, in charge of tourism, within the UN system, followed in 1977 by an agreement through which WTO became a UN related agency.

The Executive Council, which has met in Madrid on 3 and 4 June, expressed a great interest in expanding the membership of the Organization with the non-members and with the sovereign states, that have abandoned, from various reasons, the WTO in the past. Countries like the USA, United Kingdom and Australia are not among 140 members of WTO. Membership increased by several new full members in the last six years, since Mr. Frangialli took post of the Secretary-General.

The international tourism, which has been shaken and transformed by the successive shocks of the economic downturn, September 11, terrorism, war and the SARS epidemic, feels a need for cooperation more than ever, said Mr. Frangialli. In a troubled situation in which many other unforeseen events could still occur, it is important that actors demonstrate a capacity for rapid response and a maximal ability to adapt. As for observers, they should avoid making overly definitive predictions or hastily prepared assessments.

More than a hundred delegates attended the 70th session of the Executive Council, which confirmed the great importance of the meeting. Besides the important decisions taken on the implementation of the programme of work in the period 2002-2003, the programme of work and budget of the Organization for 2004-2005, linguistic diversity in the WTO and various administrative issues, the greatest attention was given to the situation of Asian tourism in relation to the SARS epidemic.

The Council expressed sympathies with China and received with satisfaction the information of the Chinese delegation, stating that the situation has been rigorously put under control, which led to the fact that no new SARS cases or death tolls have been recorded in last days. Pleading that WTO highest governing body should stick to the plan of meeting in Beijing, Chairman of the Chinese National Tourism Administration Mr. He Gwangwei assured that the government of the Peoples` Republic of China and its people guarantees safety and security to all delegates.

The Executive Council decided not to take immediately a decision on the venue of this year`s WTO General Assembly, which is scheduled to take place between 17 and 24 October in the Chinese capital. The Council gave a mandate to the Secretary-General, that he, together with the Chairman of the Council (Russia), the WTO host country (Spain) in consultation with China, takes a final decision three months prior to the scheduled meeting. If the World Health Organization and governments lift the travel advisories for Beijing and mainland China by mid-July, the General Assembly will be held as scheduled, said Mr. Frangialli.

During the session, members had an opportunity to meet, for the first time, with the members of the WTO Education Council and attended the award giving ceremony of the first Ulysses prize for the achievements in the academic sphere to Dr. Donald Hawkins from George Washington University, Washington D.C.

The 71st session of the Executive Council will be held a day before the 15th General Assembly in fall 2003.

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