Friday, May 22, 2009

In opposition to the candidacy of Farouk Hosny

I see the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to be very important to the world's future. It was created in the aftermath of World War II, and for six decades has sought to promote intellectual development globally, in the recognition that peace is best promoted in the long run by promoting dialog among peoples and a culture of peace. It is a relatively small organization. Its annual budget is less than one-quarter of the annual budget of my local school district. Yet is has influence through a huge network of networks of educators, scientists, and cultural leaders which it has catalyzed and developed over time.

In October it will elect a new Director General, who in all likelihood will serve two terms. During the new Director General's term of office the nations of the world will in all likelihood make major commitments to international cooperation in education, science and cultural development. As the leadership of UNESCO should be critical in this time, so too the leadership of UNESCO's Director General should enable the organization to play its critically important role well.

Nominations for the new Director General must be made by the end of May. They will be reviewed by the Executive Board of UNESCO in September, and the new Director General will be elected by UNESCO's General Conference in October.

There are several candidates for the post but the leading candidate appears to be the Egyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny, who appears to have the support of the Arab nations. The election will be on the basis of one-country one-vote in the 193 member General Conference. Thus the election will be decided by the developing nations if they choose to vote as a block. The Egyptian government is working hard to line up developing nation support for Hosny.

Unfortunately, Hosny has made a number of anti-Israeli public statements over the years and indeed has made anti-Jewish statements as well. He has publicly threatened to burn Israeli books and stated that Israel has made no contribution to world culture. His candidacy has not only generated opposition from several governments and from many intellectuals, but even from significant numbers of Egyptians.

I recognize that it is often politically expedient for Egyptian politicians to make statements against Israel, and that such statements may not reflect deeply held beliefs. Still, I can not support a man for the position of Director General of UNESCO who has threatened to use his government position to burn books and who denies the importance of the "Judeo" in Judeo-Christian culture. I hope that one of the other, more appropriate candidates will be elected Director General of UNESCO!


John Daly said...

A colleague has mentioned that it would be unfortunate if the election of a new Director General would be based primarily the Arab-Israeli controversy.

UNESCO needs a strong leader, who fully understands its missions in education, science and culture, who can lead in the effort to promote intellectual growth everywhere and a dialog among nations.

There are now a half dozen or more candidates for the post, several of whom seem to better fill that description than does the Egyptian artist/bureaucrat Farouk Hosny.

John Daly said...

There is a good article by Yojana Sharma on SciDev.Net summarizing the state of the election as nominations close: