Canada withdraws from UN tourism body over Mugabe honour

The decision by the United Nations World Tourism Office (UNWTO) to select Robert Mugabe as an ambassador for tourism continues to be criticised, with Canada now withdrawing from the body in protest.


Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Thursday the ‘appointment’ of Mugabe as an international tourism ambassador was what led to the withdrawal. Baird said it was the “last straw” for Canada's participation in the UNWTO.

Canada had already signalled a year ago that it intended to withdraw from the UNWTO. But an Order in Council is required to formalise any such notice period.

"After (minister Baird) heard that (Mugabe) was honoured at an event, after he was invited to join this global leaders group, he signed the Order in Council almost immediately," said Baird’s spokesman Joseph Lavoie.

"They were legitimising him by enlisting Mugabe to promote tourism," Lavoie said, adding: "In our view that makes him a small 'a' ambassador."

The UN body has insisted that Mugabe has not been an awarded an official title, saying it does not run an ‘ambassadorial’ programme. But critics continue to view the decision to choose Zimbabwe as the co-host country for the UNWTO’s 2013 General Assembly as an indirect endorsement of the Mugabe regime.

Political analyst and former Zimbabwean diplomat Clifford Mashiri said the UN’s credibility is in doubt over this move, adding that ZANU PF “likely feels endorsed and that it hasn’t done anything wrong in terms of human rights.”

“In this way it is a direct endorsement of the party,” Mashiri warned.

He applauded Canada’s decision, saying it is a sign that the UN as a whole should refocus its efforts if it wants to remain credible as a global human rights defender.

“The UN must be reawakened to human rights abuses and it cannot hide behind time or anything else,” Mashiri said. – SW Radio Africa News

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