The United Kingdom and Canada have boycotted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly which opened in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe Monday, to protest gross human rights abuses and election rigging by president Robert Mugabe.
Major UK airlines, including British Airways and Virgin were notably absent from the exhibition area, and so were prominent travel agents from the two countries, such as Thomas Cook.
Conference officials confirmed no British or Canadian delegations were accredited.
Canada’s foreign minister John Baird said last year that his country was dumping the conference amid concerns over human rights. The UK followed suit this year.
The NGO UN Watch, which monitors UN activities, applauded the two countries for the move. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said holding the summit in Zimbabwe was a “misguided venture” and a “grossly inappropriate honour to Mugabe”.
“Amid reports of election rigging and ongoing human rights abuses, Zimbabwe is the last country that should be legitimized by a UN summit of any kind,” Neuer said. “The government of Robert Mugabe has brutalized human rights activists, crushed democratic dissidents, and turned the breadbasket of Africa into a basket case. The notion that the UN should now spin this country as a lovely tourism destination is, frankly, sickening.”
UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai on Monday justified the decision to hold the conference in troubled Zimbabwe, claiming there was “record attendance”.
Mugabe used his opening speech Monday to attack Western countries, accusing them of monopolising tourism.