As UNESCO elections on the position of director-general kick off on Monday, Egypt is hoping to make another diplomatic gain against its political opponent Qatar, yet both face French predominance.
Egyptian candidate Mushira Khattab is competing against Qatari rival Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, whom Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry described in Saturday press statements as unqualified and criticized him for implying he could buy votes.
Asked about the financial suffering of the UNESCO, Al-Kawari said in an interview with Pan-African magazine Jeune Afrique in May 2017, that he “wouldn’t come with empty hands,” and that he received “promises from several sponsors and institutions in this sense or else he would not have run for candidacy.” Al-Kawari spoke on the need to diversify the financial resources of the UNESCO in order to keep up with the expansion of missions.
His statements were seen as indications of buying votes to win the seat. However, Abdulaziz, who was the former Qatar’s minister of culture, could be seen as a good opportunity for the UNESCO as for his country financial resources, but still the Qatari crisis has weakened his chance to win the seat.
Throughout the recent period, particularly following cutting ties crisis, Qatar has witnessed a number of accusations that highly impacted its reputation globally. On 5 June, Egypt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab of Emirates and Bahrain have suspended diplomatic ties with Qatar, on accusations of supporting terrorism.
The Egyptian candidate is being supported by different African countries, as a number of African Union have expressed support to Khattab during the recent African summit last July. Also the three Gulf countries, have ave announced they’ll support Cairo’s candidate for the top seat in UNESCO, despite that before crisis, they were planned to support Qatar.
Still noting solid could confirm that there is high percentage of Egypt’s wining for the seat, not only only for having three Arab countries as competitors Qatar but because due to the French candidate opportunity, France has joined the election the first time.
Political Science Professor at Cairo University, commented on Egypt’s chance of wining, to Daily News Egypt, saying that,“ the French candidate represents the biggest threat to Egypt, as this is the first time that France nominee a candidate, something unprecedented and unjustified,’’ adding that when explanation were demanded from France, only diplomatic statements were given to the media on its stance.
Meanwhile, UNESCO director-general Egyptian candidate said she wasn’t positive about the candidature of French former Culture minister Audrey Azoulay because France is a friend of Arab states and particularly holds excellent relations with Egypt.
“It’s not a good thing,” Khattab said in an interview with French website Le Point on Saturday, adding : “There was a tacit agreement that France wouldn’t present candidates for the director-general position. Moreover, it was implied that the post would go to an Arab country”.
Several public figures including former Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawas agreed that the presence of French candidate will make the competition very strong among the candidates.
Moreover, twenty eight Egyptian, Arab and African organisations have expressed their support for Khattab. Among these organizations are Egypt’s National Council for Women, the House of Representatives’ female members, Paramilitary committees of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Manpower, according to State Information Service.
Regarding the Qatari candidate in front of Egypt, and to what extend the financial condition could facilitate his opportunity to win the seat, Fahmy said that, “definitely the money would improve his stance, as political funds usually impact in such situations”. He continued that still the recent crisis stirred fears towards Qatar, resulting money countries to move away from supporting its candidate.
Furthermore, Khattab further promoted herself as a qualified Arab Muslim woman who would be the best in confronting all forms of radicalism. She also hinted that Egypt is the Middle Eastern country that can communicate with both Palestine and Israel.
“As so, I want the UNESCO to work in Palestine in the health and education sectors like in the rest of the world,” she stated.
Egypt’s institutions spared no efforts to secure the vote of member states of the executive board in favour of Khattab as the African Arab only candidate. While Iraq pulled out its candidate Saleh Al-Hasnawi in favour of Egypt, Khattab still faces Lebanese candidate Vera El-Khoury Lacoeuilhe
In an interview with the pro-state Al-Youm Al-Sabea on Saturday, Shoukry called on the Arab League to prevent in the future the plurality of Arab candidates, which in his opinion has decreased the chances of an Arab candidate assuming the position.
On the other hand, Qatar, in dispute with the four Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, has the support of Guatemala which pulled out its candidate in favour of Qatar.
“The Foreign Minister of Guatemala formally sent a letter of endorsement to Qatar’s candidate Dr Hamad Al Kawari confirming the withdraw of his country’s candidate,” The Qatari Peninsula website reported earlier in October.
Shoukry coordinated a series of meetings with representatives of different countries over the past months. The last coordination took place in Paris on Friday with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki and members of the African permanent delegates to UNESCO, where Shoukry asserted the importance of the African role in promoting the Egyptian candidate.