The UNESCO Executive Board begins its meeting next week at which it will choose a new Director General for the Organization. The new Director General should continue the reforms made by his immediate predecessors, while implementing the instructions of UNESCO's governing bodies, and providing leadership in meeting the new challenges facing UNESCO in the coming decade.
There are eight active candidates who have been nominated for the position. While much of the campaign is conducted behind a screen of diplomatic secrecy, there has been a great deal of press coverage of the campaign.
The leading candidate, Farouk Hosny, is the Minister of Culture of Egypt. He has been campaigning actively with the support of his government for two years. In the last few months, however, people have challenged his candidacy, notably in the magazine Foreign Policy and the French dailyL'Monde (in translation also in The Huffington Post) and the Anti-Defamation League. Thus his election is now in some doubt, and there may be several ballots before a candidate receives a majority.
The United States is said to have opposed Hosny during the Bush administration. With the change in administration, the UNESCO election appears to have received little U.S. Governmental attention for some months. More recently, however, the Obama administration seems to have encouraged the entry of several candidates into the race. A French journal today reports that the U.S. Congress might not support funding UNESCO if it were to be headed by Hosny. Were the U.S. to withhold or delay contributions, given that it provides 22 percent of UNESCO's regular budget, the impact would be severe.