Just in case you want a break from the U.S. election news, spare a thought for the UN World Tourism Organization(UNWTO), headquartered in Madrid. Sounds benign, right? Just a friendly way of promoting development in exotic places?
Well, now comes a dispatch from Iran’s PressTV news service, announcing that during a UNWTO meeting just held in Mexico, it was decided that Iran will host a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2013. This meeting will be dedicated, of course, to tourism. Not that Iran’s regime, with its apocalyptic obsessions, genocidal ambitions, domestic repression and distinct hostility toward large and restive segments of its own population, is exactly a beacon of the tourism industry. But for a regime under sanctions due to its human rights violations and illicit nuclear program, the tourism trade may have its own special charms — coupled as it looks likely to be in this case with the chance to play diplomatic patron to scores of visiting ministers, and perhaps explore the many ways in which the tourism industry lends itself to laundering money and camouflaging deals for things other than souvenir keychains and pomegranate smoothies near the Strait of Hormuz.
According to the Iran PressTV story, this proposal was offered the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, a Jordanian. It was approved by tourism ministers from member states of the Non-Aligned Movement, which with 120 members accounts for more than half the 193 members of the UN General Assembly — and which Iran is now chairing for a three-year term, from 2012-2015. Just this September, Iran took over the chairmanship at a summit in Tehran — attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
If the UNWTO is featuring this news of a planned Iranian summit on its own web site, I haven’t been able to find it. But Iran’s English-language outlets seem quite enthused about getting the word out — there’s also an item on it in the Tehran Times.
If Iran’s regime chooses to host shindigs for its closest pals, there may be little the world can easily do about it. The broader problem — not least, a taunt to countries such a the U.S. — comes when the UN, bankrolled chiefly by the developed democracies (especially the U.S.) serves as a vehicle for organizing such occasions, and thus provides a de facto stamp of approval.
This is the same UN World Tourism Organization which just this past May celebrated Zimbabwe’s longtime despot, Robert Mugabe, as part of its “Leaders for Tourism Campaign.” Maybe we should start calling it the the UN World Tyrants Organization?