Egypt decided on Saturday to nominate former Minister of Family and Population Moushira Khattab for the position of director-general of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The decision came after current director-general Irina Bokova announced candidacy for the UN secretary-general position. Citing officials, state-owned news agency MENA reported that Khattab has started visiting top officials from the UNESCO member states to secure their stances regarding her nomination.
Officials stated that the tour is secretive and far from media follow-ups. However, privately-owned newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabaa reported that many member states have welcomed the decision and support Khattab’s nomination.
Rights lawyer Gamal Eid opposed the nomination, saying that he is not against Khattab’s nomination because she is secular, but rather because she is one of the prominent figures of the era of former president Hosni Mubarak.
The nomination of Khattab came one year after Egypt nominated Ahmed Aboul-Gheit to be secretary-general of the Arab League. Aboul-Gheit served as the Foreign Minister from 2004 to 2011, and his nomination marked a comeback for the prominent figures of the Mubarak era.
In 2014, founding director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina Ismael Serag El-Din was nominated for the UNESCO director-general position. Uproar amid intellectuals and activists also took place as Serag El-Din was a controversial nominee who was facing several charges in court. He was also a prominent figure of the Mubarak era.
In 2009, Egypt nominated former Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni to the post of director-general as well, but chances of his appointment declined after anti-semitic statements were made, saying that if there were any Israeli books in the Alexandria library, he would burn them. The comments sparked international concern over whether he would be appropriate for the position.
Activist Wael Abbas commented on the nomination of Hosni at the time, saying that he was a hypocrite and worked for a dictatorial regime. He also added that his ministry was involved in corruption.
Earlier in May, Qatar nominated cultural adviser to the Emir, Hamad Al-Kuwari, for the same post, which will level the competition, as both Khattab and Al-Kuwari will attempt to win the support of the seven Arab countries that vote in the UNESCO.
Khattab was the former Minister of Family and Population during the era of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in 2011. She also served as Egypt’s ambassador to South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. She further served at Egypt’s diplomatic mission in Austria, Hungary, and the United Nations.
UNESCO is a specialised agency in the United Nations that aims to facilitate peace and security through fields such as education and natural sciences.