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Taleb Rifai is the current Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization
The World Tourism Organization , based in Madrid, Spain, is a United Nations agency dealing with questions relating to tourism. It compiles the World Tourism rankings. The World Tourism Organization is a significant global body, concerned with the collection and collation of statistical information...
, the first Arab to run the 154 member body. He is based in Madrid, Spain
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...
, where the UNWTO agency is based. Rifai was born in Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...
in 1949. He is married and has 5 children.
- Rifai is the current Secretary- General of the World Tourism Organization UNWTO, officially elected in October 2009.
- Rifai was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in February 2006.
- From January 2003 to February 2006, Mr. Rifai was the Assistant Director-General of the international Labour Organization (ILO).
- Prior to this appointment, Mr. Rifai served in several ministerial portfolios in the Government of Jordan as Minister of Tourism and Antiquities; Minister of Information; and, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.
- During his term as Minister of Tourism, Mr. Rifai served as Chairman of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
- From 1997 to 2000, he was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jordan Cement Company, one of the largest public shareholding companies in Jordan; and directed the first large-scale privatization and restructuring scheme in Jordan.
- Rifai was also actively involved in policy making and developing investment strategies in his capacity as Director General of the Investment Promotion Corporation (IPC) in Jordan (1995–1997).
- From 1993 to 1995, Rifai headed Jordan's first Economic Mission to Washington DC, promoting trade, investments, and economic relations between Jordan and the USA.
- Rifai began his career as Professor of Architecture, Planning and Urban Design at the University of Jordan from 1973-1993. He received his Ph.D. in Urban Design and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia – USA (1983); and a MSc. in Engineering and Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago – USA (1979). He also attained a B.Sc. in Architectural Engineering from the University of Cairo in 1973.
- Rifai is a Jordanian national born is 1949. He is married and has five children.
UNWTO 2009 Elections
Rifai was elected Secretary General of the UNWTO on May 12, 2009. He obtained 20 out of the 31 votes. The closest competitor was the Korean Dr. Oh Jee-Chul, from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO). The Korean candidate only obtained 10 out of the 11 remaining. The remaining one vote was given to Mr. Khalid Malik who is the Pakistani UN Resident Coordinator in China. Furthermore, there was actually a fourth candidate for the position of Secretary General, Mr. Arab Hoballah who was the Chief of Sustainable Consumption and Production in the UN Environment Programme of Lebanon. He had to withdraw from the campaign since Lebanon was not paying to be allowed to present a candidate for the position. The election of Rifai in May was nothing more than a selection of an official candidate to be presented to the 155 member inter-governmental body. In October, the position was ratified and the position of Dr. Francesco Frangialli was usurped in Kazakhstan. Dr. Rifai will hold office until the end of 2013.
Issues in the 2009 elections
The media, after most of the campaigning was done, arose with the possibility that there were some cases of bribery done by the Korean government. During the final phase of the campaign, Dr. Oh, they said, and his government led a strong attack on those countries that could vote and had an economic weakness. The exact “wrongdoings” were never specified.
UNWTO sources said the final stage of the election turned into a “nasty showdown” as Dr Oh launched into a strong attack on allegedly poor corporate governance and assorted other wrongdoings in the UNWTO. The undiplomatic attack caught everyone off guard, and forced Dr Rifai to set aside his prepared election statement and go into a point by point rebuttal.
“It was quite a tense moment,” said one source familiar with the proceedings in what was a closed meeting. “It seems to have backfired on Dr Oh with at least a few council members switching their votes at the last minute.” The source said Dr Rifai was confident of winning with a tally of at least 18 votes but picked up two more than he expected. The vote is held by secret ballot.
After the vote, Dr Rifai said in his acceptance speech that he would seek to heal wounds by making Korea the first country he would visit. In turn, Dr Oh congratulated Dr Rifai for winning the nomination, but left Mali along with an entourage of more than 20 Korean representatives immediately after the election.
Before being involved in the UNWTO
Before being involved with the UNWTO
Dr. Rifai founded Jordan's first Archaeological Park in the ancient city of Petra in collaboration with UNESCO and the World Bank, along with other projects in Jerash, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. His rich career included serving as the Chairman of the Jordan Tourism Board, President of the Amman School for Tourism and Hospitality, and Chairman of the Executive Council of the UNWTO in 2001. From January 2003 to February 2006, Mr. Rifai was the Assistant Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).He also held an important position from 1997 to 2000, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jordan Cement Company, one of the largest public shareholding companies in Jordan; and directed the first large-scale privatization and restructuring scheme in Jordan.
Dr. Rifai is the current UNWTO Secretary General based in Madrid, Spain. The first trips he made were directed to Korea to ‘heal the wounds’ that the Koreans had due to the loss in the elections. He has proceeded with actions to prevent Mexican economy to get hurt by the relation that people make with the swine flu. His intention was to show that Mexico did not have restrictions due to the Swine Flu. (http://www.eturbonews.com/9498/unwto-head-taleb-rifai-let-s-go-mexico)