Egypt's Moushira Khattab invited to address parliament on UNESCO campaign

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 14 Oct 2017

MPs said the elections for the UNESCO director-general post should ring alarm bells on 'graft and vote-buying in UN organisations'

Moshira Khattab
Ambassador Moshira Khattab, Egypt’s candidate to the post of the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Egypt's parliament invited on Saturday Moushira Khattab, the country's candidate who contested last week's elections for the post of director-general of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), to address the foreign affairs committee on her election campaign.

Khattab lost to former French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay, who was elected the UNESCO chief Friday after an unusually heated four-round race.

A statement released by the parliament's foreign committee said Khattab's campaign was "honourable."

"Khattab's performance in the UNESCO election campaign was also strong and honourable and the committee has officially decided to invite her to address its members on her participation in this election," said the committee, adding that "Khattab was a good face for Egypt in this campaign, not to mention that she was an outstanding diplomatic and international figure."

The committee said Khattab and her campaign team members were able to contest four rounds of the election in a "very professional manner, dealing wisely with all obstacles that she faced in this battle."

'Financial irregularities' 

The head of parliament's culture, media and antiquities committee, Osama Heikal, told reporters Saturday that the committee "was sorrowful that last week's election for the new director-general of UNESCO was marred with financial irregularities."

"Some tried in this election to buy votes to reach the post of the UNESCO director-general, and this should ring alarm bells," said Heikal, wondering "how a country – Qatar – that has no cultural weight was able to buy votes to reach the final round and how countries that are members of UNESCO reacted positively to this vote-buying."

"These bad practices should push countries to reconsider their membership of UNESCO because these practices will cast doubts on its image and credibility," said Heikal.

Heikal urged UNESCO's executive board to move quickly to keep the organisation free from "bad money."

"The board should open an investigation into the irregularities that have marred the recent election in order to keep its reputation and credibility intact," said Hekial.

"It was so bad that the international community turned in the past a blind eye to corruption and vote buying in FIFA and it did the same again with the recent UNESCO election instead of raising question marks on it."

Heikal wondered "how a candidate of a country heavily involved in funding terrorism got a majority vote until the semi-final rounds of the UNESCO election?"

"In spite of all the irregularities and violations which have marred the UNESCO vote, the committee believes that withdrawal from UNESCO should be a last resort for Egypt," he added.

MP Mohamed El-Orabi, a former foreign minister and manager of Khattab's campaign team, told reporters that the recent election for UNESCO's director-general post was not marked with transparency.

"The ballots in the UNESCO election should be public rather than secret," said El-Orabi, adding that "as Western countries always advise democracy and transparency all the time, they should impose this principle on the election of the UNESCO director-general and all other prestigious international posts," El-Orabi said. 

He added that he would submit a report to the foreign affairs committee on the UNESCO election.

"Egyptian diplomacy led by foreign minister Sameh Shoukry has played a wonderful role in promoting Moushira Khattab's campaign and we are proud that we were able to push her to the final rounds of the UNESCO election in spite of all irregularities and money talk," El-Orabi said.

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