OTTAWA — Canada is withdrawing from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) over the appointment of President Robert Mugabe as a special tourism ambassador.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister John Baird said Mugabe’s appointment as international tourism ambassador symbolised what was wrong with the UN.
Mugabe is currently under a European Union travel ban because of human rights abuses in his own country.
His appointment is being made by the UNWTO.
In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Baird called the move outrageous, and announced that Canada would be withdrawing from the tourism office next month. Mugabe has been in power for more than three decades and has been blamed for Zimbabwe’s economic ruin, resulting in food and fuel shortages, rampant inflation, high poverty and unemployment.
On Tuesday, the UN body endorsed Mugabe with Zambian President Michael Sata after they signed an agreement to co-host the UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013 in Victoria Falls and Livingstone.
UNWTO secretary-general Talib Rifai paid tribute to Mugabe and Sata for their role in tourism development.
However, United States House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a statement said: “The continued rewards the UN bestows upon the world’s dictators has reached the point of absurdity. An organisation devoted to world peace and stability is propping up and aiding the very regimes that oppose such ideals.”
But UNWTO spokesperson Sandra Carvao said the protests were not justified as Mugabe had not been made an official UN ambassador or given a tourism-related title.