UNESCO has been in crisis for nearly two years. When the UNESCO General Conference met in 2011 it elected Palestine to membership. As a result, the United States immediately began to withhold its contributions to the Organization; 22 percent of the regular budget was suddenly gone. The United States continues to withhold its contributions although the Obama administration has requested that Congress appropriate the necessary funds. The current gridlock in the Congress suggests that the funding may not be authorized soon, and it may be that the United States will lose its voting rights at the General Conference.
In its next meeting, as part of a complex agenda, UNESCO’s Executive Board will consider the UNESCO’s program and budget for the next two years and the election of a Director General for the next four years. The members will do so knowing that UNESCO will be expected to provide global leadership in the planning for education and science to meet the Sustainable Development Goals to be defined by the United Nations for the coming decades. UNESCO will also be expected to deal with the crisis in education created in the Levant by the millions of refugee Syrian children. It will also be expected to work to preserve world heritage sites threatened by conflict and by environmental problems. And of course, it will be expected to continue to find ways to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men, as it has always sought to do.
There are three nominees for Director General of UNESCO. During its upcoming meeting (24 September-11 October 2013) the 58 members of the UNESCO Executive Board will select one to recommend to the UNESCO General Conference. The General Conference will almost certainly accept that recommendation during its 2013 meeting (November 5 to November 20).
Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian career diplomat and the current Director General, is running for a second four year term. UNESCO provides three documents illuminating her vision for UNESCO in addition to her biography:
- A Mission statement, published in 2009
- A New Humanism for the 21st Century
- Global Governance for the 21st Century: the UNESCO angle
There have been rumors for some months that she might withdraw from the election, but there have been public announcements of her country’s support for her candidacy.
- “The Director-General Meets the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria” (August 7, 20139
- “Bulgaria Supports UNESCO Head Bokova in Running for her Second Term‘
There has also been negative media attention to her candidacy. Recently The Huffington Post published a quite negative piece on DG Bokova’s candidacy titled “Unesco: Irina Bokova doit-elle être reconduite?“, It cites:
- A critical article in lemag.ma: “Unesco : Irina Bokova à l’épreuve de son bilan“
- An article in Le Monde diplomatique: “L’Unesco en danger” and
- A very negative online video: “Irina Bokova, DG et fossoyeur de l’Unesco“
Rachad Farah was nominated last year by his country, Djibuti. An experienced diplomat, and serves as Djibuti’s Ambassador to several countries and is its Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. Here is his biography, He has publicly outlined his vision for UNESCO. Here is a more formal vision statement. Here is his website.
Ambassador Farah has been actively campaigning for the position, and has received a number of endorsements:
- “Arab League endorses Rachad Farah bid for UNESCO Director General“
- “African, South American leaders backs Rachad Farah’s bid for UNESCO Director General“
- “AU backs Djiboutian Rachad Farah for UNESCO D-G post“
- “Rachad Farah, candidat du monde arabo-africain (mais pas seulement) à la direction de l’Unesco“
He has also been the subject of some media attention:
- “Election Unesco – Rachad Farah candidat – Djibouti”
- “Unesco : l’ambassadeur djiboutien candidat de l’Afrique et du monde musulman“
- “”This is the right time for Africa…” Rachad Farah“
- “Rachad Farah brigue la Direction de l’Unesco“
- “Unesco : Rachad Farah, un Djiboutien en lice“
- “DJIBOUTI: Rachad Farah, the South’s candidate“
- “Djibouti’s special envoy in Pakistan for seeking support“
- “UNESCO candidate Farah asks Japan to prod U.S. on resuming funding“
Joseph Maila has been nominated by the Government of Lebanon. According to an April post by the World Public Forum Dialog of Civilizations “Joseph Maila is specialist in Islamic studies and international mediation. He is former president of the Catholic Institute of Paris, former director of the French Center of Research for Peace and founder of the French Mediation and Negotiation Training Institute.” He has also worked for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in recent years. Here is his biography on Wikipedia. Here is a statement of his vision for UNESCO.
There has been some media coverage of his candidacy including:
- “Joseph Maïla sera-t-il le prochain directeur général de l’Unesco ?“
- “Lebanese Jospeh Maila nominated for UNESCO’s Director General position“
- “Le libanais Joseph Maïla candidat au poste de directeur général de l’Unesco“
Members of the Executive Board in the Board’s deliberations represent not only their own governments but also the the other members states of their regions. Directors-General have been elected from many continents, and the global community seeks to assure that leadership positions in the UN family of organizations are fairly distributed among the nations of the world.
The last four Directors-General of UNESCO have all served more than one term, and one might therefore expect that Director General Bokova would be the favorite in the current election. However, the Executive Board must consider whether her leadership over the last two years indicates that she is the best choice for the next four. Moreover, larger issues in the governance of the network of international organizations may intervene in the deliberations of the member states. The deliberations of the Executive Board should be most interesting.