Conference of Presidents Leaders Call Results of First Two Rounds of Voting for Next Director General of UNESCO Disappointing Example of Political Hypocrisy in Crucial Test for the Future Credibility and Effectiveness of UNESCO

New York, NY,. . . Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued the following statement:

“The first two rounds of voting by the 58 member Executive Board of UNESCO for the election of the next Director General of the United Nations body responsible for promoting international cooperation in the fields of education, science and culture in which the candidate from Qatar has received the most votes is a disappointing example of political hypocrisy and expedience which threatens the future credibility and effectiveness of UNESCO. 

The former Qatari Minister of Culture, Mr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, is unqualified to lead an institution whose mission is to strengthen ties between nations, promote dialog and understanding among diverse cultures and religions and protect the heritage of all peoples throughout the world.  Mr. Al-Kawari has a history of doing just the opposite, endorsing, encouraging, sponsoring and supporting projects and programs with blatant anti-Semitic content, as an official of a country that regularly aligns itself in the UN with international efforts singling out Israel and questioning foundational principles of the Jewish faith.

Sadly, the group of countries that Qatar and Mr. Al-Kawari join in these efforts have, in recent years, hijacked the UNESCO agenda to introduce and adopt abhorrent resolutions denying the Jewish and Christian religious connections to holy sites in Israel and pushing baseless claims of Israeli acts to destroy Muslim holy sites under its protection.

The Executive Board has an opportunity to repair the credibility of UNESCO by electing an individual to be Director General who will place the ideals and values of the institution at the forefront of his or her agenda.  Thus far in the selection process, the Executive Board appears to be squandering the chance to put those ideals and values ahead of base political considerations.

In the next round of voting, we hope to see the Executive Board cast votes responsibly with an eye to the future viability of this critically important international body by electing a Director General who has demonstrated real commitment and the ability to lead UNESCO in fulfilling its vital mission.  

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The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 50 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern

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