Next UNESCO Chief must respect science and culture

Unesco ParisBrussels, October 11th, 2017 – “This week´s election of a new Director-General for the UN’s agency for education, science and culture is a golden opportunity for the member states to renew their commitment to the values and principles of the UN Charter by electing a candidate who fully respects science and promotes a culture of dialogue and co-existence”, said ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell in a statement ahead of the final vote later this week in Paris.

In a first round of voting in the Executive Committee of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) earlier this week, the Qatari candidate Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari came first with 19 out of 58 votes, followed by the French nominee Audrey Azoulay who received 13 votes. Research by the Simon Wiesenthal center has revealed that Al-Kawari had overseen the distribution of anti-Semitic literature while serving as minister of culture in his country and his candidature has been contested by the Israeli delegation to UNESCO.

The international community, led by the US administration, has expressed grave concerns about the recent resolutions from the Paris based UN body which has repeatedly denied any historical Jewish links to the holy sites in the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories. Last year the 58 member strong executive committee of UNESCO, led by Qatar, declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron to be an exclusive Muslim holy site. In a similar fashion, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has previously added the Western Wall in Jerusalem to its World Heritage List, but only by its Arab name.

“This culture of historical falsification and politicization will have to stop if the UN body is going to retain its reputation as a respected UN agency for education, science and culture”, Sandell added. In April, outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova sent a written statement to the Annual Policy Conference of the European Coalition for Israel in the European Parliament in Brussels where she clarified her stance on Jerusalem. In the statement, which was conveyed by UNESCO Director Gene Seiti, she reaffirmed the historic bonds between the Jewish people and Jerusalem by saying that “Jerusalem is the capital of King David, where Solomon built the Temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant”. She went on to say that “to deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish traditions undermines the integrity of the site and runs counter to the reason that justifies its inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List”.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres has also publicly distanced himself from the recent UNESCO resolutions by stating that “there can be no doubt that there has been a Jewish temple in Jerusalem”.

“The next Director-General of UNESCO must be a reformer who can renew the trust in the UN body by expressing full respect for the undisputable findings of science and promote a culture of co-existence and dialogue”, Sandell concluded.

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