Bulgarian Irina Bokova, the outgoing Director General of the United Nations cultural agency, has expressed regret over a decision by the United States to withdraw as a full member of the body and called it both a loss to UNESCO and to humanity.
Bokova, head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that despite the withholding of membership payments since 2011, she believes the American people believe in the UNESCO mission and the U.S. remains a key partner in protecting the world’s cultural heritage.
“I believe UNESCO’s action to harness new technologies to enhance learning is shared by the American people. I believe UNESCO’s action to enhance scientific cooperation, for ocean sustainability, is shared by the American people,” she said in a forceful statement on the U.S. role in global cooperation.
“I believe UNESCO’s action to promote freedom of expression, to defend the safety of journalists, is shared by the American people,” she added. “I believe UNESCO’s action to empower girls and women as change-makers, as peacebuilders, is shared by the American people.”
The decision comes as UNESCO prepares to elect a new director in November, from the remaining five candidates in contention. Of the initial nine, the candidates from Vietnam and Azerbaijan withdrew earlier this week, following in the footsteps of two from Iraq and Guatemala.
That leaves Moushira Khattab of Egypt, Qian Tang of China, Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Audrey Azoulay of France, and Vera el-Khoury Lacoeuilhe of Lebanon.
For details on the UNESCO election process, see this link.