Lebanese candidate in running to lead UNESCO

by Georgi Azar

10 October 2017 | 14:41

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Last update: 10 October 2017 | 14:41

Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (©UNESCO/Nora Houguenade)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe will seek to become the first Arab Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on Tuesday, when voting resumes this afternoon.

On Monday, the 58 member states of UNESCO’s executive board began the week-long grueling process of electing a successor for outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova, with Arab states making up almost half of the shortlisted candidates vying for the leadership position.

Following the first round of voting held at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris on Monday, Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari led the pack with 19 votes, while France’s Audrey Azoulay received 13 votes.

Egypt’s Moushira Khattab received 11 votes, with Lebanon’s Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe lagging behind, securing a mere 6 votes, equaling the number of votes received by Lebanon’s previous candidate Joseph Mella.

China, Vietnam, and Azerbaijan's candidates are expected to withdraw their candidacies, after securing five and two votes respectively.  

According to these results, had the Arab states elected to put forth one single candidate, an absolute majority would have been secured from the first ballot, as the winner must receive a minimum of 30 votes.

In case Khoury manages to secure the requisite number of votes, she will have the daunting task of reconciling members whose relations have been strained due to geo-political factors, while also seeking to claw back the funds halted by the United States and Israel.

After playing a leading role in elaborating the most important UNESCO legal instruments adopted by the organization for the past 20 years, while also chairing several intergovernmental committees of international conventions, Khoury put forth her candidacy with the aim of making “UNESCO the best possible organization: a model of transparency, accountability, ethics, innovation, and results.”

If Khoury does indeed become General-Director of UNESCO, this would further intensify Israel’s objection, who initially blasted UNESCO’s decision of including Palestine as a member state in 2011, prompting them and their U.S counterparts to halt their financial contributions. 

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