French former culture minister to head UNESCO
Anne-Christine POUJOULAT (AFP)
Former French culture minister Audrey Azoulay was selected to head the embattled UN cultural agency UNESCO after defeating her Qatari rival by two votes in a cliffhanger election on Friday.
Azoulay, 49, came from behind after six rounds of voting to defeat Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, also a former culture minister, by 30 votes to 28 after he failed to pick up support from other Gulf states that are part of a Saudi-led coalition blockading Qatar.
The vote came a day after the United States announced that it would withdraw from the agency, citing an anti-Israel bias. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced soon after the US declaration that he had ordered his Foreign Ministry to prepare for withdrawal as well.
Azoulay declared her last-minute candidacy to lead UNESCO, the UN's cultural body, in March, saying that "France was perfectly legitimate on the subject of culture, education and sciences."
But she was not able to campaign fully until leaving her post after President Emmanuel Macron named a new government following his election in May.
During her tenure of just over a year as culture minister under leftist president Francois Hollande, Azoulay secured a budget increase for her ministry after years of deep cuts.
Her tenure was also marked by the passage of a "creation and heritage" law aimed at ensuring artistic freedom and protecting France's myriad historic sites, the culmination of years of efforts.
Azoulay was born in Paris on August 4, 1972, into a Moroccan Jewish family, originally from Essaouira, which gave pride of place to books and debate.
Her father is Andre Azoulay, a banker and adviser to the Morocco's King Mohammed VI -- as he was to the king's father, Hassan II -- and her mother is the writer Katia Brami.
She studied at Sciences-Po university in Paris and at the Lancaster University in Britain before graduating from France's ENA, an elite school that grooms France's future leaders.
During her studies she worked in banking, an experience she said she "hated".
She spent time at France's Court of Audits and several years in various media departments at the Culture Ministry, before joining the CNC, guardian of the French film industry, as financial director in 2006.
By 2011 she had become deputy director at the CNC, making her a key player in the structure which regulates the industry and doles out subsidies for French productions.
"It's the film industry that formed me the most professionally,"said Azoulay, who has also been a staunch defender of the French industry's "cultural exception" against the Hollywood juggernaut.
(Staff with AFP)
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Bravo... hopefully that she will be able to be free from Macron.