France's Audrey Azoulay overwhelmingly confirmed as UNESCO's new head

The Jewish former culture minister said she had "great faith" in UNESCO's ability to "transform the world."

November 10, 2017 17:34
1 minute read.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. (photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS)


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Audrey Azoulay, France's former culture minister and the country's Jewish runner for head of the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, secured on Friday her nomination to head the cultural agency.

The 45-year-old's nomination was confirmed in October by members of the agency's board, making her the organization's second woman director-general.

AFP reported Friday that Azoulay said she had "great faith" in UNESCO, which "bears the genuine power to transform the world."

After having garnered 131 votes with only 19 member states opposing her nomination, Azoulay expressed hope for a solidified UNESCO, saying: "The unity you have shown in this vote is a good omen for the coming period, in which we need to stand shoulder to shoulder."

According to AFP, Azoulay also went on to add that members were "clear-sighted as to the organization's difficulties [but they] know how irreplaceable and essential it is in the face of our world’s challenges."

Azoulay is the successor of Irina Bokova, who served as UNESCO's first female director-general and who is expected to finish her term in November. She ran up in the last round against Qatari diplomat Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari in what was a very tense election period.

Azoulay is the first Jewish head of the UN agency, which Israel welcomes with excitement. Israel's envoy to the organization, Carmel Shama Hacohen, spoke to The Jerusalem Post when news of Azoulay's election first emerged last month, saying that "she has all the qualifications [necessary] to make changes [at UNESCO]. She is very talented, educated and professional and has the support of one of the [world] powers, France."

With the US recently pulling out of the organization due to what it deemed "anti-Israel bias'' and Israel quickly announcing it would follow in its ally's footsteps, it remains to be seen what impact Azoulay's election will have on the organization's approach towards the Jewish state. 

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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