French Audrey Azoulay re-elected for second term as head of UNESCO


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On Tuesday, the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO re-elected France’s Audrey Azoulay as its director general for a second term, with the former French culture minister greeting a new trust and unity in the organization.

UNESCO had been torn apart by divisions when Azoulay took office in 2017 with both Israel and the United States exit the agency on allegations of anti-Israeli bias.

Unchallenged, Azoulay won his new term at UNESCO general conference with 155 votes in favor, just nine against and one abstention.

“I see this result as a sign of newfound unity within our organization. Over the past four years, we have been able to restore confidence in UNESCO, and in some respects it has also been about restoring UNESCO’s confidence in itself, “he said.

“We have rediscovered serenity by reducing the political tensions that hindered us and by seeking common positions on issues that in the past were divisive,” he added.

UNESCO, which received total funding of $ 1.4 billion from compulsory member contributions and donations in 2020-21, has been at the forefront of high-profile projects such as rebuilding the old city of Mosul in Iraq and of schools in the Lebanese capital Beirut damaged by the explosion in August 2020.

Azoulay’s biggest challenge for his second four-year term will be trying to win back Israel and the United States in the organization, which he oversees the ambit. World Heritage label for humanity’s most loved sites around the world.

>> The interview: UNESCO members must support “long-term” peace, Azoulay tells FRANCE 24

A source close to Azoulay, who asked not to be named, told AFP in preparation for the conference that there were “positive signs” that the two countries might consider a return.

For some, the return of the United States would be a welcome balance of China’s growing importance and influence, which now accounts for more than 15 percent of total mandatory contributions to the budget.



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