The 58 members of UNESCO’s Executive Board Friday (October 13) nominated France’s candidate Audrey Azoulay for the position of Director-General of the Organization, after five rounds of voting that began on 9 October.
Azoulay, 45, a former French culture minister, and Qatari Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari were the two frontrunners who made it to finals out of the nine candidates that were vying to replace outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova.
In a close vote, Azoulay beat her challenger with 30 votes against 28 at the last round carried out on Friday.
The nomination will be submitted for final approval to the vote of the General Conference that brings together all 195 Member States of the Organization every two years on 10 November.
Announcing the final results, the Board’s Chairperson, Michael Worbs (Germany), congratulated Audrey Azoulay, saying “Your previous experience as a government minister and in other senior national and international positions gives you the expertise, competence and depth of knowledge you will need if you are entrusted with the supreme leadership of our Organization.”
Following her election, Azoulay said the appropriate response to UNESCO’s problems was to carry out reform, not to leave — a reference to this week’s decision by the US and Israel to quit the UN agency.
Audrey Azoulay will be the second woman to lead the UN agency after Bulgarian Irina Bokova. Bokova had been at the helm of the organization since November 2009. She was reelected for a second term in 2013.
Born in 1972 in the Moroccan Atlantic city of Essaouira, Audrey Azoulay served as France’s Minister of Culture from February 2016 to May 2017 under the Presidency of Socialist President François Hollande and secured a budget increase for her ministry after years of reductions.
She began her career in the offices in charge of supporting public broadcasting in France and went on to serve as rapporteur for the French public audit authority, Cour des Comptes, and legal expert for the European Commission in the fields of culture and communication.
She successively held the positions of Deputy Director for Multimedia Affairs, Chief Financial and Legal Officer and Deputy Director-General of the French National Centre of Cinematography (CNC). Audrey Azoulay is a graduate of France’s school of public administration, l’Ecole nationale d’administration, and holds an MA in Business Administration from the University of Lancaster (UK) and a degree in political science from l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques (France).