Why Egypt for UNESCO

The time to choose a candidate to be Director General of UNESCO is coming soon. This is an essential decision, and I would like to explain to the world why it is so important that this position be given to an Arab, and specifically to Egypt’s candidate, Moushira Khattab.

France has also advanced a candidate for the directorship of UNESCO. It is true that the organization is in Paris, and that the French are wonderful collaborators in the field of cultural heritage. I can speak from personal knowledge: there are many French expeditions currently excavating in Egypt, and the archaeological cooperation between our two countries is superb. The Franco-Egyptian expedition to the temples at Karnak is an excellent example of international cooperation, as archaeologists from both countries work together to record and preserve these spectacular monuments. There have been many great French scholars who have contributed to Egyptology, from Mariette Pasha, who founded Egypt’s antiquities service, to Champollion, who cracked the hieroglyphic code, and including Maspero, Lauer, Leclant, and many others.

Although the French government values this cooperation, it chose to overlook the fact that Egypt has put forward a highly qualified candidate, and has proposed instead a candidate of its own. The intellectual authorities in Egypt have written a letter to the authorities in Paris to ask that the French candidate be withdrawn. Some have even proposed that the Ministry of Antiquities stop all archaeological cooperation between France and Egypt in protest. A group of these protesters went to meet Dr. Khaled el-Enany, Minister of Antiquities for Egypt, and ask him to cut all relations officially. I myself do not want this to happen, and hope that the French will find a way forward for which all of us, as Egyptians and as Arabs, can be grateful.

The French Candidacy is against the long-held and established practices within the UNESCO, which don’t support a nominee from the Headquarter country. Nor do these practices allow for a country to have the seat of the Director General more than once. The principle of rotation must be honored here. Since the UNESCO’s inception in 1946, an Arab country has never before had this opportunity, and this is our time.

We are now celebrating the 200-year anniversary of the discovery of the Great Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. Dr. el-Enany traveled to Paris to attend the festivities for this event. These very temples, and many others, were saved through the actions of the international community. It was UNESCO, at Egypt’s request, that announced and managed the salvage campaign that preserved so much of the heritage of ancient Nubia, threatened by the building of the High Dam at Aswan. March 8, 1960, the greatmoment when this salvage campaign was announced, will be engraved in the annals of history. Thishistorical event, which took place in Paris,was attended by many international figures. Vittorino Veronese, the Director General of UNESCO from 1958 to 1961, and his successor RenéMaheu, who served from 1961-1974, called on governments, international organizations, and any group concerned with our international heritage to provide help in the form of funds or technical assistance. Theresponse was overwhelming. Countries and private individuals gave as much as they could, and millions of dollars were raised. Committees and researchers from over twenty countries worked together for twenty years on the highly successful campaign launched by this event. And this international cooperation, initiated by Egypt, gave UNESCO new stature, and made it a body to be respected around the world.

The importance of Egypt’s cultural heritage to the world is only one reason that we deserve to have our candidate chosen as the next director general. The Arab candidate for UNESCO, Moushira Khattab truly deserves this position. She is an exceptional person and is extremely well qualified. She will be able to serve the world committee in an honest and professional way, and is the right person to lead the organization during these difficult times. Moushira Khattab is not just an Arab candidate; she represents Africa as well. She has received the full support of the African leaders during two summits in Kigali in July 2016 and Addis Ababa in July 2017.  The African Union promotes for her candidacy, as an African nominee who is well aware of the continent’s priorities and concerns, and is better positioned to serve its interests at the UNESCO. Moushira khattab is a multi-disciplinary candidate who represents the Arab, Islamic and African cultures.

Throughout her life, Dr. Khattab has demonstrated her dedication to cultural heritage. She is truly and international candidate – her career spans the United States, Europe, Australia, and Africa. She has a Ph.D. in human rights law, and has held important diplomatic positions for Egypt, including as ambassador to countriessuch as the Czech Republic and the Republic of South Africa. I have met her over the years in many of her posts; wherever she has gone, she has been active and she has won the love of the people in every city she has lived in. She has also made great contributions as secretary general of Egypt’s national council for childhood and motherhood. I was her colleague when Egypt appointed a new cabinet after the Revolution, when she was made Minister of State for Family and Population. Her contributions to cabinet discussions were always impressive, and showed her capabilities and integrity. She will be a great representative for Arab women, and indeed for all women and all people.

Moushira Khattab believes that the right to quality education is the single most effective strategy for the realization of all other human rights, and she has always fought to put her belief into practice. She has great strength in the realm of international experience. This includes multilateral and bilateral experience with various UN organizations as well as serving her country during several events of historical significance. Her background shows that she has passion and can lead UNESCO successfully. Any one who reads the presentation she gave in front of the UNESCO delegation will recognize that she has a vision that will push this organization to be aggressive in solving the problem of education in third world countries and in saving the heritage of the countries where terrorists are damaging history.

These are the reasons that Egypt should have the seat of the director general of UNESCO, and why Moushira Khattab is the best candidate.

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