UNESCO`s executive board is appointing a new leader to replace departing director Irina Bokova, whose tenure was defaced by funding troubles and tension over its inclusion of Palestine as a member.
The intense diplomatic wrangling has indicated the competition among seven candidates to become the next director general of UNESCO. Arab countries have long aspired to lead the organization, though divisions over Palestinian membership have hindered their push.
Voting for electing a majority by the 58-member executive board of UNESCO starts Monday and will continue until next week. The UNESCO general assembly next month will take the Final decision.
Leading candidates include Qian Tang of China, former Egyptian minister Moushira Khattab, and Qatar`s former Cultural Minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari.
UNESCO, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world will need a director who will work to gather more finances for the agency.
The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately emerging countries and scientific fields, promote a more considerable knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust, and defend freedom of the press, among other activities.
U.S. and Israel suspended funding UNESCO since 2011 when its members voted to make Palestine a member state.
Japan, which was UNESCO`s second highest contributor reserved its dues last year stating that it wants to see UNESCO to nurture trust among the member nations - a decision widely viewed as a response to UNESCO`s listing of Chinese Rape of Nanking documents as a memory of the world.
China`s historical views of 1937 massacre are opposed by Japan, and Qian Tang`s win in the director race could risk the financial contributions of Japan.
However, the candidates asserted that any national interest would be put aside and the agency would be led with neutrality. However, the electing process is often overshadowed by national and regional divisions.
Some candidates are even meeting resistance at home. Six Egyptian rights groups protested Khattab`s candidacy suggesting she was a compliance in the Egyptian government`s authoritarian policies.
She maintains in her UNESCO candidacy statement that she will uphold freedoms sanctified in the agency`s values.
While the role played by U.S. in UNESCO is under question, some are theorizing that China will try to take advantage of the vacuum to dominate UNESCO and the U.N. agencies more broadly.
Chinese candidate Qian, however, maintains that "China does not want to replace the role of the United States.We need America."
Bangla Insider/ MA