Rabat - Audrey Azoulay, former French Minister of Culture and daughter of Morocco’s royal counselor, André Azoulay, is among the eight candidates in the race to become the new head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Rabat – Audrey Azoulay, former French Minister of Culture and daughter of Morocco’s royal counselor, André Azoulay, is among the eight candidates in the race to become the new head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The election will take place in several stages starting Monday, October 9. The Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) met on October 4 for several days to discuss the appointment of a new director to head the troubled organization as a replacement of the Bulgarian Irina Bokova.
Azoulay has put forward her candidacy to become the Director-General of UNESCO, convinced that it is “through education and culture, and the dissemination of science and sustainable development” that the organization will be able to “activate the furthest-reaching and soundest forces over the long term, of the United Nations universal project for peace and democracy,” she explained in an interview with French Radio RFI.
Azoulay is not new to the domain, as her personal life and professional career have always been marked by her active commitment to innovation and intercultural and intergenerational dialogue. Her connection with the two shores of the Mediterranean, between Europe and Africa, has led her to fight for the diversity of languages and cultural expressions.
Azoulay’s candidacy, strongly supported by French President Emmanuel Macron, “reflects France’s commitment and desire to work to further UNESCO […] at this crucial time,” explained the former Minister.
However, becoming the new head of the UNESCO will mean far more than simply succeeding Bokova. The next leader must be capable of bringing back consensus to an organization weakened by political conflicts.
In recent years, the organization have been the subject of many accusations, particularly bias in its treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and and alleged delay of reforms.
By granting full membership to Palestine back in 2011, the UNESCO infuriated Israel and its fervent ally the United State, which led to the two countries suspending their funding to the agency. The US funding cut dealt a particularly heavy blow to UNESCO, as Washington’s contribution represented nearly a quarter of its budget.
The new head of the UNESCO will thus have their work cut out for them, and for Azoulay and the rest of candidates nominated by their respective countries, the stakes are high.
An Arab leader for UNESCO?
In scattered ranks, Arab countries are trying to make their voices heard by claiming the post, especially as UNESCO has never before had an Arab director. However, UNESCO does not observe a traditional rotation by world region for its chief, unlike for the UN secretary-general.
Besides Azoulay, Egyptian career diplomat Moushira Khattab is among the favorites to head the agency. However, those responsible for the campaign to support Khattab have expressed disappointment at the scattering order of the Arab nominations with Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Qatari candidatures, describing it as a “lack of consensus that weakens the Arab group.”
The competition will no doubt be tough against the candidatures of France and China, two heavyweights of the international scene. Vietnam and Azerbaijan also have candidates. The ninth in the running, Guatemala’s Juan Alfonso Fuentes Soria, withdrew on September 25.
The vote will take place in one or more stages starting on Monday, at the end of the working day of the council. Up to four ballots may be held if no candidate reaches an absolute majority. If a fifth vote is organized, it would then be between the two who arrive at the top in the fifth round.