UN cultural agency to pick new chief after US walkout
The UN’s cultural agency was set to elect a new chief on Friday, seeking someone who can revive UNESCO’s fortunes after the US and Israel pulled out.
Whoever gets the job needs to restore relevance to the agency whose mission is to protect the world’s cultural and natural heritages that have been hobbled by regional rivalries.
After four days of secret balloting at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarter, Qatar’s former culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari qualified for the final vote, scheduled Friday evening.
He was expected to face off against either Moushira Khattab, an Egyptian diplomat and politician, or Audrey Azoulay, a former French culture minister, whichever woman wins a ballot on Friday afternoon.
“More than ever UNESCO needs a project that rallies the member states, reestablishes trust and cuts through the political divisions for the sake of UNESCO,” French foreign ministry spokesperson Agnes Romatet-Espagne said ahead of the vote to replace Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian who has led the agency since 2009.
The US is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO’s funding, but had already been withholding that since 2011 when the body admitted Palestine as a full member.