How to Read the Blog

This blog can now be seen to serve as a documentation of the recent election for the post of Director General of UNESCO. For that purpose it might best be read in the following order:

The Background
Biographical Information on the Candidates

Coverage of the Campaign (prior to the first vote of the Executive Board)
Coverage During the Voting by the Executive Board
The Election in the UNESCO General Conference
Post Election Materials

The voting in the Executive Board was, as expected, the defining element of the election. Prior to that voting most of the press coverage was framed around the candidacy of Farouk Hosny -- his leadership position in the race and the likely challengers. Perhaps as a result of that framing, several key forces aligned against his candidacy. Arrayed against Hosny were several candidates, the strongest of whom appeared to be two Permanent Delegates to UNESCO (Bokova and Marciulionyte) and an European Union Commissioner (Ferrero-Waldner). The only candidate from the Americas (Baki) appeared as a dark horse who was rumored to have the support of the United States delegation. Candidates tended all to have visible presence on the Internet, campaign brochures, and hospitality suites at key events. Several of the candidates spent time traveling to UNESCO member nation capitols to promote their candidacies, most importantly the eventual winner, Irina Bokova. The strong support of top officials from their home governments was important for several candidates, suggesting that there was some important behind the scenes electioneering going on.

Ultimately, it appears that the negative campaign opposing Hosny was effective. There was little public discussion of the negative aspects of other candidacies until they became serious challengers to Hosny. Ultimately, it appears that Hosny could not expand his lead to a majority of the delegates to the Executive Board and a majority finally coalesced around his principal opponent, Bokova.

The General Conference did not unanimously support the recommendation of the Executive Board, but did so by a large majority.

Ultimately, the Organization selected its first woman Director General and the first from Group 2 -- the former Communist nations. In doing so, it rejected the bid of the candidate of the Arab nations who would have been the second Muslim and the second person from Group 5 and the African nations.

Of course, it is important that all the leading candidates were multilingual, with experience in high level government posts, and counted significant diplomatic experience in their backgrounds. None was a globally recognized leader in education, science nor communications. Indeed, the only scientist in the field got few votes and dropped out early. Hosny, as long term Minister of Culture of Egypt, was the only candidate with major credentials in management of one of UNESCO's key sectors.

Normalization Politics on the Nile

Ursula Lindsey, a Cairo based reporter, published this article in Middle East Report describing the boycott of Israel by Egyptian intellectuals and defining that as a context for Farouk Hosny's opposition to cultural normalization with Israel during his decades as Minister of Culture of Egypt, and the brouhaha in Egypt when in running for Director General of UNESCO he appeared to some Egyptians to be wavering on that opposition.

The article describes also the opposition that arose against Minister Hosny's UNESCO candidacy, led by Jewish intellectuals (but by no means limited to them), based on his history of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel remarks.

It does not deal with the opposition to the candidacy based on other factors, and as such is not a complete documentation of the UNESCO election bit of Minister Hosny. Reporter Lindsey does however make a strong case for rethinking Egyptian tactics in support of the Palestinian cause, especially in the more effective targeting of the boycott.


"Yo ya me he convertido en un símbolo"

Fuente: ANTONIO JIMÉNEZ BARCA, El Pais (Espana), 05/11/2009

Dice estar decidida a impulsar la institución, un tanto paquidérmica y adormecida. "Tenemos que convertir la Unesco en una suerte de conciencia de la humanidad. Nuestra labor es fortalecer el humanismo, la dignidad, el diálogo. Es mi ambición". ¿Y qué papel desempeña en eso el director general? "Yo ya me he convertido en un símbolo", dice sin petulancia.

Ama la música, toca el piano, le gusta la arqueología y cuando era estudiante le apasionaban las novelas de ciencia-ficción con trasfondo moral: Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem... Ahora ya no. Para leer en su casa, se olvida de ese futuro al que alude constantemente, y se sumerge en los libros de historia.