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Who Leads UNESCO?

Posted on the 05 April 2013 by Charlescrawford @charlescrawford

I find myself taking a fleeting interest in the goings-on at UNESCO as the time comes round to choose a new Director-General. Never a dull moment there - it is an especially 'politicised' UN body.

Try this punchy piece about the way the Obama Administration may be manoeuvring to get US taxpayers' money into UNESCO despite a US law stopping funding of any international body that admits Palestine as a full member without Palestine directly negotiating with Israel.

And here is an excellent WikiLeaks US 2009 cable (yet another example of fine US diplomatic professionalism) describing the machinations surrounding the election of the current UNESCO Director-General. Envelopes with cash and the allegations of intimidation:

Egypt may have overplayed its hand as allegations of bribes offered to various delegations surfaced in the days before the elections. One member of the U.S. delegation witnessed an unfamiliar man carrying a large amount of cash in an envelope at UNESCO headquarters. Several Member States complained to the Director-General and to the Executive Board Chairman about an atmosphere of intimidation at UNESCO and not feeling comfortable talking to their colleagues without outside lobbyists immediately questioning them in the corridors at UNESCO. Elizabeth Longworth (protect), Matsuura's Chief of Staff, confirmed to the U.S. Representative that on September 21, the D-G banned an individual from further entry to UNESCO because of numerous allegations of unethical conduct by the individual related to the election.

The victory for Bulgaria's Irina Bokovo (needless to say someone from an impeccable communist family) seems to have owed a lot to China siding with the USA to block India and thwart a strong Egyptian candidate:

The Chinese ambassador was jubilant after the result and said to the U.S. Representative that "this victory represented a successful partnership between the United States and China in support of good governance in the international system. In the first rounds we voted in support of geo-political obligations. In the final round, we voted in support of the integrity of this Organization."

Note too the clumsy untransparent Cold War-style procedures to elect the new new DG:

In the 2009 election, candidates were allowed 20 minutes to address the Executive Board and 30 minutes to answer questions, with no answer lasting more than 5 minutes. Moreover, the meeting in which this occurred was closed. There was no opportunity for members of national cooperating bodies to view the presentations. While candidates did publish vision statements on the Internet and while many of them visited capitals of member states or participated in UNESCO activities, they remained largely unknown to the members of the national commissions of UNESCO's member states ... I believe it is time for UNESCO to open its selection process in order to assure that the most qualified candidate is elected Director General. Importantly, the National Commissions should be empowered to carry out their duties of advising their representatives at UNESCO on the qualifications of the candidates.

Lack of proper modern transparency in choosing top international officials is a major cause of corruption and mismanagement across the international community. But alas few governments want to do anything about it - better to keep up their sleeves the hope of patronage and/or behind-the-scenes manipulation

All the usual dirty international fun.

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