The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has appointed 45-year old former Minister of Culture and Communication of France, Ms Audrey Azoulay, as the new Director-General.
She formally assumed office on November 15, 2017 as the 11th Director-General of UNESCO and the second woman to occupy the position, taking over from the outgoing Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova of Bulgaria.
Ms Azoulay was nominated for the position by UNESCO’s Executive Board on October 13, 2017 and endorsed by the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference on November 10, 2017, after a vote.
In a message to the media after her confirmation by UNESCO General Conference, Ms Azoulay praised her predecessor, saying she commended “the leadership of Irina Bokova who served with determination in times of crisis and difficulties.”
She noted that the task of running UNESCO is “a very demanding agenda”, adding that: “We must be clear-sighted. The organisation needs to constantly renew its pact of confidence with the world, with the member states. It has to stay and remain in the avant-garde of all the challenges by being open: open to young people, open to artists, to scientists, to civil society. It also needs to keep the path of reform that has been started so that it is more fit for purpose, transparent and accountable and so that we all understand the added value that it brings to the collective agenda.”
Expressing her pride at joining UNESCO’s team, she said: “Nothing in the future will be possible without the commitment and the confidence of the staff and of the member states. We all have to be united by the strength of the mandate of UNESCO and it is in the spirit of dialogue and cooperation that I will start my mandate.”
Born in 1972, Ms Azoulay was France’s Minister of Culture and Communication from February 2016 to May 2017. She has occupied senior positions in France’s public broadcasting sector and served as rapporteur to France’s public auditing authority, the Cour des comptes, and as a European Commission legislative expert on issues of culture and the media.
Ms Azoulay served France’s National Cinema Centre (CNC), first as Deputy Audiovisual Director, then as Director of Financial and Legal Affairs, and finally as Deputy Director-General.
She is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration and the Paris Institut d’études politiques.
Ms Azoulay also holds a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom.
Congratulating Ms Azoulay on her appointment, the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, said he and his colleagues in the African freedom of expression community were looking forward to working with her to continue the “eventful and impactful” relationship that existed between them and UNESCO during the tenure of Ms Bokova.
Mr. Ojo who is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), a network of African freedom of expression organizations, and a member of the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), commended Ms Bokova for her service to UNESCO, to Africa and the global freedom of expression community.
He said: “As Ms Irina Bokova bows out gracefully from office, we are reminded of the vigour and commitment that she brought to the office, her accessibility to stakeholders within UNESCO’s mandate areas, and the many impressive achievements that UNESCO recorded under her leadership, including the proclamation by UNESCO in November 2015, at the instance of the African Platform on Access to Information, of September 28 of every year as the International Day for Universal Access to Information; its leadership in the development of and shepherding of the UN Plan of Action and the Issue of Impunity; its positive role in the inclusion of the issue of public access to information in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among many other positive developments.”