New UNESCO Chief Pledges to Keep Down Tensions

      November 13, 2017 13:19

      UNESCO's new leader Audrey Azoulay has promised to promote unity and reduce tensions in the global culture body, casting doubt on Korea's efforts to list divisive documents on the Memory of the World Register.

      Azoulay, a former French culture minister, told AFP on Saturday, "To rebuild unity, we must promote UNESCO's assets and its knowhow, as well as that of its members."

      UNESCO "must show, through its actions, that [it] is addressing the challenges of globalization today," she said. She pledged to "reduce a certain amount of tension" but conceded that difficulties will "always exist."

      Azoulay, who was elected to the job four months ago, was chiefly speaking about the U.S. and Israel, whose governments threatened to leave the global body last month.

      They claim that UNESCO is unduly supportive of occupied Palestine in looking at world heritage issues.

      In 2011 the U.S., which accounts for a quarter of UNESCO's total budget, announced it would halt payments after the global body allowed Palestine to become an official member. Since then, UNESCO has faced financial problems and had to cut new hires and reduce expenses.

      But Azoulay's conciliatory approach is also expected to affect Korea's efforts to include documents relating to Japan's sexual enslavement in World War II on the Memory of the World Register.

      Already last month, UNESCO decided to postpone a decision on including the documents, apparently after heavy lobbying from Japan, which now provides a whopping 10 percent of global contributions to UNESCO.

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