Ms Audrey Azoulay’s interview with the UNESCO Executive Board

Wednesday 27 April 2017, Ms Audrey Azoulay, candidate for the post of UNESCO Director-General, presented her programme and her vision for the Organisation to the Executive Board.

See below for the transcript of her speech and the video recording of her interview:

26 April 2017
Chair of the Executive Board,
Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives of Executive Board Member States,

It is a great honour to speak before you, at the heart of this multilat-eral forum which has, since its inception, held the highest of ambitions of the world, founded upon humanism, universality and equality between Member States.

I. I want to defend an ambitious, modern and efficient UNESCO

The challenges of the future are not the same as those we faced at the end of the Second World War, our societies are ever increasingly interwoven, multi-cultural and multi-faith, while large-scale migrations are unsettling balances that we thought were set in stone. Only UNESCO can be the architect of mutual knowledge and understanding, respect and the possibility of living in harmony, and it must take up this mantle. We must restore UNESCO’s central position acquired through its missions and values. We must enable it to promote a humanism which is necessary now more than ever.

Despite its expertise, UNESCO cannot be a purely technical organization, it must promote values. It must once again become the conscience of the United Nations, to use the founding words of Leon Blum, it must fully assume the entire scope of its mission and reject any vision that limits its mandate.
The deep-seated causes of conflict, poverty, human rights viola-tions and heritage destruction are now more interlinked than ever. The international community must therefore respond with a global understanding of these issues, in convergence with the United Na-tions system and in collaboration with regional organizations and civil societies.

The Organization’s division on a certain number of pressing issues must not be accepted as an unavoidable state of affairs. This must be a place where men and women of good will can freely discuss sensitive issues within their scope of competence on an equal foot-ing.

Chair of the Executive Board
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the organization’s fields and programmes:

UNESCO is clearly at the forefront of ensuring a quality Education for All and I will ensure that the institution retains and strengthens this leading position. Education is the key to meeting several development goals. As regards education for girls, while progress has been made the situation remains unsatisfactory, notably for girls in the poorest regions of sub-Saharan Africa. This further justifies the priority placed on Africa and gender equality.

Culture is a force for dialogue, social cohesion, economic growth and creativity. I believe it remains at the heart of UNESCO’s mission. I also believe that culture is key to resisting unforeseen events, wars and trauma. What UNESCO has achieved in Angkor and Mali is exemplary and I would like to welcome the decisive impact of Irina Bokova in raising awareness within the international community and also public opinion.

It was this increased awareness that led to the favourable outcome of the historic Security Council resolution that I had the honour of presenting with my Italian colleague last month in New York.

UNESCO also has exceptional experience in various fields such as man’s relationship with the environment, water resources and marine hazards. As regards human sciences, I will make the case for their revitalizing the ethical leadership expected of UNESCO in the overall scientific field.

And for communication, I am committed to ensuring UNESCO remains the spearhead in defending fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.

Excellencies, distinguished representatives,

Regarding the budget, the voluntary suspension of payment of compulsory contributions is a challenging issue. In dialogue with the authorities concerned, I would work on promoting the shared objectives that we are developing at UNESCO to attempt to identify new solutions. I will make every effort to restore trust and confidence with each of our Member States, and handle with all of them on an equal footing.

A precise and inclusive approach

To build efficiency and confidence, UNESCO also needs a culture of transparent and independent audit within timeframes that allow for operational changes along the way if necessary. This requires the definition of precise objectives, means and indicators for deliverables for each project. This has started to be done in recent times at UNESCO and this approach should be built on and rolled out across the board.

Together with the Executive Board, the Directorate-General must work on a new roadmap based on this shared project review, with benchmarks and a possibility to evaluate what is being done, and in the objective of a more adaptable, modern and adapted to digital technology, decentralized UNESCO, close to realities in the field.

UNESCO should also be the place of coordination in view of its ob-jectives for international financial institutions and work with regional institutions and civil society.

The universality promoted by UNESCO brings with it a duty of solidarity to which it is inextricably linked. Priority Africa is well established and I commit to developing it further and continuing our col-laboration with the African Union, as well as with other regional or-ganizations and financial institutions. Solidarity will be also a key word to the benefit of the least developed countries as well as the Small Insular States most at risk to the dangers of global warming.


Together with Member States, we must come up with new forms of financing and partnerships within the scope of UNESCO’s missions, bringing in new stakeholders to work alongside the Member States. I, personally, will strive to increase financing possibilities, seeking out partnerships with creative industries in each Member State.

I also believe that we should strive to hold new global digital stake-holders accountable to ensure corporate social responsibility be-comes a reality, based on my 10-year experience of calling upon Internet stakeholders to finance creation. The organization would have to develop professional skills in this regard altogether drafting the ethical guidelines needed to safeguard the integrity of its goals.

If chosen, upon taking up the position, I will request a report on several important processes, notably recruitments, purchasing and decision-making processes.

I also wish to better recognize the work of the National Commissions as they are strong allies who do outstanding work ensuring our work has a strong grounding in Member States.

Distinguished representatives,

III. As a woman with my professional experience and personal background, I am fully convinced of the role that UNESCO must play in the story of the world which is being written every day.

(1) Firstly, I believe that gender equality is essential if we wish to build stable, open societies and if we wish to enable and ensure their sustainable development.

In my work, I have been fully committed to this, both in my actions and in my choice of those who make up my teams. Gender equality is a crosscutting priority for UNESCO in all of the organization’s fields of competence as shown, to cite just one example, by the draft resolution put forward for this 201st session of the Executive Board by Sweden (and sponsored by France) regarding the protection of journalists and especially women.

(2) My work has always been driven by the conviction that only cul-ture and education can counter the rejection of the other, bring people together where so many other issues divide. It is artists’ works that bring people together, even in the most distressing of times. It is through pride in tangible and intangible cultural heritage treasured for centuries that peoples’ dignity is rebuilt after conflict. It is through diversity of cultural expression that equality and fraternity are achieved. It is also through culture that economic development becomes deeply rooted. I experienced first-hand the way in which the values borne by culture helped the rejection of hate in the days following the attack on the Bataclan in Paris.

True to the commitments of the 2005 Convention, I initiated a plan for cultural diversity through books and translation in the Mediterranean basin ¬ because, to quote the title of a remarkable piece in the New York Times by Libyan author, Hisham Matar, books have no borders. And I welcome Conakry’s selection as World Book Capital 2017.

(3) Finally, I am French but my Moroccan roots have given me tangible experience of other peoples, mutual respect and an ages-old culture where the dignity of each individual is recognized. Indeed, Morocco has this exceptional asset of being founded from multiple origins, something which is asserted even in its constitution. Com-ing, as I do, from both sides of the Mediterranean, between Europe and Africa, is a chance which has carried me, made me more aware of difference and stronger as a consequence.


UNESCO is at a crossroads.

We need UNESCO, now more than ever, to act through its missions through culture, education and scientific dialogue, as a facilitator and a creator of bridges between distant shores.

This also requires UNESCO to be stronger in reviving debate, putting aside political certainties and giving more space to intellectuals from around the world, researchers and artists.

It is our collective responsibility to act more consistently, more effectively to fulfil the mandate we have been given in a world that is being rebuilt, remaining true to our ideals and at the same time fully committed to meeting the challenges of the modern world such as radicalization, migrations and the ethical challenges of the digital world.

We must restore UNESCO’s central position to which it can and must aspire through its missions and values while also restoring its full visibility on the international stage. It must once again incarnate the hopes of new generations.

Thank you.

Pictures of the hearing:

Audrey AZOULAY - France - Interviews of the candidates for the post of Director-General of UNESCO

Video on Youtube :