Cablegate: Unesco Director-General Race Enters the Last Lap

DE RUEHFR #1137/01 2301526
R 181526Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 82701

1. (SBU) Summary: Egypt's Farouk Hosni leads the pack in the race
to be UNESCO's next Director-General. He appears to have 20-25
votes of the 30 needed to obtain the endorsement of UNESCO's
58-member Executive Board. Notably, he has recently picked up
support from India which, added to Brazil which backed him in May,
gives him support from two highly influential regional powers. He
is within striking distance of victory on what will be a secret
ballot, but his victory is not inevitable. He does not have the
support of UNESCO's major contributors, nor does he have support of
many in Africa, despite the African Union's apparent endorsement.
Many states believe he would be a disengaged manager who would
rather ignore UNESCO's serious management deficiencies than deal
with them, and many question his commitment to UNESCO's ideals given
his history of anti-Semitic comments. Hosni can be beaten if he
fails to win on the first ballot. Most of those committed to him
have promised to vote for him only once, and many even in the Middle
East are likely to desert his cause. The key will be finding a way
for his opponents to coalesce around the candidate who has the best
chance of winning. End Summary.

2. (U) UNESCO's 58-member Executive Board will conduct up to five
secret ballots September 17-22 to decide which of nine candidates
for UNESCO Director-General to recommend for selection by the
October General Conference as UNESCO's new leader. Obtaining a
precise breakdown of support for each candidate is impossible at
this time. Many permanent representatives are taking advantage of
the August lull to consult their capitals and obtain instructions.
Some delegations are being deliberately close-mouthed, while we know
for a fact that others have promised their support to more than one
candidate. At least two permanent representatives have told us they
will take advantage of the secrecy of the ballot to ignore
instructions from their capital and vote for whom they please.
3. (SBU) By any yardstick, Egypt's Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is
far ahead. Egypt has been engaged in high-level deal-making and
arm-twisting with other governments for more than two years. Along
the way it has picked up the endorsement of the Arab League and of
the African Union (AU), although the former may be much more
valuable than the latter. While Arab delegations tell us they will
join the Arab League consensus on the first ballot, despite the
personal misgivings many have, many AU delegations tell us the AU
endorsement was due only to heavy pressure from Libya's Qadhafi at
the last AU meeting in Sirte, and that they do not intend to respect
the AU position. (Comment: In our experience, Africans usually try
to paper over divisions between north and south, but on this subject
Sub-Saharan resentment at perceived bullying by Egypt and Libya is
being expressed with unusual openness.) More useful to Egypt have
been endorsements by Brazil and India, each of which initially took
a reserved position but have now come around to support and campaign
for Hosni. Both Brazil and India exercise strong influence in their
respective regions and have the potential to bring others into his

4. (SBU) Hosni's opponents are divided and struggling but in many
cases passionate in opposing him. We continually hear concerns
expressed about the way he ran his ministry in Cairo and the
conviction for corruption of members of his staff by an Egyptian
court. Many tell us they fear he would be a distant,
unapproachable, hands-off manager who would ignore UNESCO's many
management failings and let things slide back to the way they were
before the current director-general began attempting to reform the
organization. Criticism of Hosni's past anti-Semitic remarks cuts
both ways, winning him sympathy from some in the Islamic world but
causing many in Europe but also in Africa and Latin America to doubt
his commitment to UNESCO's core principles. Notably, virtually none
of UNESCO's major contributors like him, and this could have a very
negative impact on his ability to raise funds for the Organization,
should he win. Japan, the UK, Canada, Mexico, France, the Nordics,
and Russia, for example, are all outspoken Hosni critics.
5. (SBU) The fundamental problem of Hosni's opponents is that they
do not have a clear figure around which to rally. Each of the other
candidates has obvious flaws. Of them, Austria's Benita
Ferrero-Waldner, probably has the most votes. She has wide support
in northern Europe, backing from Colombia and perhaps Mexico, as
well as the possibility of support in Africa. Her critics contend
she is a late-comer to the campaign with little evident interest in
UNESCO, and they complain she has been falsely trying to claim that
she is the EU candidate and can deliver EU development aid to
potential supporters in the developing world. In addition, many of
Hosni's detractors feel that it is not Europe's turn to lead this
organization. Europeans essentially ran it from its foundation
until the mid-1970's and again in the 1990's under Spanish former
director-general Federico Mayor.
6. (SBU) Other rivals have less support. Russian Vice-Foreign
Minister Yakovenko has tried to position himself as the alternative
to Hosni who could appeal to both developing and developed
countries, but he has failed to win much support in either camp.
The Russian ambassador was chagrined to admit to us that even states
Russia considered natural allies like Serbia and Azerbaijan have
committed to vote for Hosni rather than Yakovenko. (Comment:
Serbia's position, which was intended to enlist Egyptian support in
blocking the tendency of Arab states to recognize Kosovo, clearly

rankled Russia. End Comment.) Bulgaria's candidate, UNESCO PermRep
Irina Bukova, has campaigned energetically for almost as long as the
Egyptian, but Yakovenko is now directly competing for many of the
same countries Bukova is targeting. She may pick up scattered votes
in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa but the total is unlikely to be
large. Her detractors feel she lacks vision and the strong
personality that would be needed to impose order on a large
international organization. Lithuania's candidate, Ina
Marciulonyte, is generally conceded to have vision and the best
understanding of any candidate of UNESCO's internal workings, but
she is felt to lack charisma. Her vote total is thus probably in
the low single digits, similar to Bukova's.

7. (SBU) The remaining candidates may have even less support.
Ecuador's Ivone Baki, herself of Lebanese extraction, has attracted
support among the Lebanese diaspora in the Caribbean and has gotten
some quiet help from Lebanon itself, but her vote total also appears
low. In Europe, where she is not well-known she is seen as a light
weight with insufficient management experience to run the
organization. The African candidates, Noreini Tidjani-Serpos
(Benin) and Sospeter Muhongo (Tanzania) have little support beyond
their home countries, and, in Tidjani-Serpos' case, he may not even
have that. The Beninois ambassador, a bitter rival of Tidjani's,
made clear to us recently that he is not enthusiastic about
Tidjani's candidacy. Finally, there is the strange case of former
Algerian Foreign Minister Mohammed Bedjaoui who was nominated by
Cambodia. Algeria reportedly announced publicly it did not support
him at the last AU Summit, while Cambodia maintains it is not
campaigning for him. Cambodia has not, however, written a letter
withdrawing his nomination, so he remains an official candidate.
Given such tepid backing, we believe Bedjaoui is likely to receive
no votes on the first ballot.

8. (SBU) Comment: We believe Hosni has to win on the first round,
if he is going to do so. He is not far from what he needs, but the
commitments he has are for the first round only. Several states
committed to voting for him on the first round tell us that they
will not vote for him on succeeding rounds. This includes several
Arab states who seem to have their own quiet misgivings about him.
If there are two or more ballots, it will be important to build
momentum around one of Hosni's opponents. This will require some of
Hosni's opponents to drop out and direct their votes to the
anti-Hosni candidate with the best chance. We anticipate intense
consultations among Hosni's opponents as soon as the French vacation
period ends.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN: Bachelet Alarmed By Number Of Palestinian Children Killed In Latest Escalation

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet today expressed alarm at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend... More>>

Save The Children: One Year Under Taliban Rule, Girls Are More Isolated, Hungry, Sad: New Report
One year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, an economic crisis, crippling drought and new restrictions have shattered girls’ lives, excluding them from society and leaving them hungry...

Palestinian Ministry of Health: Developments In The Health Situation During The Israeli Aggression On The Cities & Governorates Of The Gaza Strip
For the second day in a row, the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip continues by targeting overcrowded residential areas and neighborhoods, as the death toll rose to 13 citizens, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman... More>>

Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>

Singapore: UN Experts Call For Immediate Moratorium On Executions For Drug Offences

UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug related charges... More>>