Economy

New French Jewish UNESCO Chief: the Organization Must Change

New French Jewish UNESCO Chief: the Organization Must Changeā€

The United Nations' cultural agency selected former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay as its new chief on Friday, handing her the keys to revive UNESCO's fortunes after the United States pulled out.

The news rocked a weeklong election already marked by geopolitical resentments, concerns about the Paris-based agency's dwindling funding and questions about its future objective.

Egypt's candidate for the position of UNESCO director-general, Moushira Khattab, was out of the race on Friday after failing to move on to the final round of voting.

Azoulay, 45, who was born in Paris to a Moroccan Jewish family, said after her election that "at this time of crisis, I think we need more than ever to work on the UNESCO organization, to support, strengthen the organization and to make changes - not to leave it".

Azoulay reiterated that the "first thing she would endeavor" if confirmed by the General Conference in November, would be to "restore the credibility" of the organization and the confidence of member states.

Two Arab candidates and France's former culture minister vied to become the new head of the UN's embattled culture and education agency on Friday, a day after the U.S. quit the body, accusing it of anti-Israel bias.

Azoulay, who is Jewish of Moroccan origin, will face the hard task of trying to persuade the United States and Israel to remain as members, as well as tackling the allegations of anti-Israel bias.

The outcome was a blow for Arab states that have long wanted to lead the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"Now more than ever UNESCO needs a project... which restores confidence and overcomes political divisions", the foreign ministry said in a statement reacting to the United States pullout.

The US State Department said the decision to leave UNESCO was "not taken lightly" and called for "fundamental reform" in the worldwide body.

The Qatari government extended congratulations to France on Azoulay winning the post.

Reaction to the vote in Qatari media was less favourable.

Azoulay started the week with much less support than al-Kawari but built up backing as other candidates dropped out.

Egypt's foreign ministry has demanded an inquiry into alleged "violations" during the voting.



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