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UNESCO Preps Executive Board Despite Corrupt Opposition by DG Azoulay and France

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UN GATE, June 25 – Next Monday 29th June will start the 209th session of the UNESCO executive board. Its holding was not self-evident nor a foregone conclusion taking into account the fierce opposition of France and its allies. As exposed by Inner City Press, their sabotage efforts were in support of DG Azoulay plans to keep the Agency closed until September next, using the COVID-19 pretext.

As the Board is finally looming, this is the right time to refresh the member states representative's memory on some facts.  Following the exposure by Inner City Press of several major financial and harassment scandals, the administration of the French DG Azoulay started a witch-hunt but never dropped of sight its narrow French-benefiting objectives.

 It begun with the systematic weakening of the program sectors and the wiping out of the so-called expertise hubs within UNESCO, and was then complemented by a lack of accountability by senior managers that led to anarchy and favorable environment for pursuing naked self-interests. In a very short period, the UNESCO system atomized. Unruliness became the new normal in dealing with major issues both within and outside the Organization. The executive board should therefore address the following items in its debates and ask DG Azoulay for responses and accountability: 

1) This week, French investigators have reopened a conflict of interest probe into President Emmanuel Macron's chief of staff, Alexis Kohler, over his links to Swiss-Italian shipping giant MSC. Link here (  Sources close to the Cabinet of DG Audrey Azoulay told Inner City Press yesterday that Azoulay proposed to President Macron to exfiltrate Kohler to UNESCO, if the situation worsened, which would grant him full immunity and preserve his political future. UNESCO is thus becoming the perfect location for French lawbreakers to hide in impunity. It is now up to Macron to decide whether to agree with the proposed deal in exchange of his support to DG Azoulay in her 2021 reelection bid. 

2) Another issue of great concern for UNESCO is the unauthorized immersion of the secretariat in the work of member states. Last week, the Assistant DG for Africa, Firmin Matoko from Congo, rewrote himself the Draft decision prepared and submitted by the African states on the “priority Africa” item for the executive board.

Even for those ambassadors who usually keep their eyes wide shot in front of the political mess and diplomatic malpractices of Azoulay’s administration, this was too much. Still, confident about his total impunity, Firmin Matoko did not bother even to consider necessary to erase his name as author of the document submitted to the Africa group, on his behalf, by Ethiopia, Senegal and Gabon. “The perpetrated traffic of political influence by F. Matoko for modifying the legitimate and independently prepared by the African group draft decision is a political fault deserving severe disciplinary measures. The same is valid for all other senior managers who work to impose, on behalf of DG Azoulay, the modified by them draft decisions initially prepared by member states. Such traffic of influence is getting out of any form of control and is against all rules and governance practices. This senior team is driving the organization to its full-blown collapse”, said a senior UNESCO official to Inner City Press. 

3) Another serious case is about the harassment and retaliation against staff members who have denounced a sexual abuse scandal within UNESCO. Not only has the administration made all possible efforts to cover it up, but most importantly, the Cabinet of Azoulay spared no effort to destroy the reputation of the victims and protect the senior managers harassing morally and humanly in their retaliation determination. The Agency is not applying nor respecting its own policy and rules – see here.

Retaliation, according to UNESCO is a very serious misconduct and by covering up her fellows Azoulay is also perpetrating a very serious transgression for which she must be charged according to the internal UN procedure but also under the French laws.  “If proven, harassment shall be sanctioned and the offender shall be subject to disciplinary measures.”

At UNESCO, even after proving it by IOS investigators, managers are simply notified to be vigilant in the future and not to leave any written trace of their misconduct. While Article 21 clearly stipulates: “21. Disciplinary measures depend on the gravity of the case. They may include termination or summary dismissal. The type of harassment, its impact on the person harassed, the existence of a hierarchical relationship and the prior conduct of the harasser are factors which shall be taken into account. The status as a supervisor or a senior official may be treated as an aggravating circumstance.”

In several cases this is precisely the situation. Proven gravity of harassment by senior officials and direct supervisors. But at corrupted UNESCO DG Azoulay is covering it all up. Criminal.  4) Another pending corruption case that was covered up by the administration of Azoulay, concerns the misuse of taxpayers’ money in large proportions.

As exposed by Inner City Press several times, the financial services of Azoulay authorized a payment of some 450,000 US dollars to an unknown financial institution in London. After effecting the payment, those funds vanished in someone’s pocket. Still, no accountability, no reaction, no measures to recover the money by the corrupted UNESCO.  Member states of UNESCO should ask also questions during the forthcoming session of the Executive board on the following issues: 

 The administrative deviation of hierarchical reporting lines - the Director of Cabinet Nicolas Kacyanides unprecedented power to control and supervise the Deputy Director general of UNESCO and the Assistant Directors general of the program Sectors. This is disrupting the work of the entire Organization, since at the top of it there is evident no respect for regular lines of authority.   

The staff members cases lost by UNESCO in Geneva where UNESCO got sentenced by the ILOAT to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money. IOS must investigate the work of the senior staff members in HRM dealing with contested cases, namely A. Grisar and A. Duganis. A sanction that would certainly put an end to this persisting detrimental situation in dealing with personnel files, is an automatic wage withholding of HRM managers so as to reimburse the financial loss for the Organization provoked by their incompetence in dealing with contested files.   

 The appointment of dozens French officials in the Cabinet of the DG Azoulay in an effort to turn UNESCO into a branch of Quai d’Orsay and the consultancy contracts for the children of several Ambassadors to UNESCO.   

The special internal arrangement by the Cabinet of DG Azoulay granting impunity to those accountable for the unjustifiable and speculative spending of some 2 million dollars by UNESCO without compensation. In two separate contracts, one for 1.536.000 EURO, and another one for 180.000 EURO, UNESCO contracted a French company to do the core redesign of the organization’s financial and administrative systems and tools. Subsequently, those amounts had been paid to the French enterprise without getting the expected deliverables. Anyone will go to jail or the responsible officer will rather get promoted?   

The Culture sector was poorly reformed by DD Audrey Azoulay and her assistant director general for Culture, the Chilean Ernesto Ottone Ramirez.  Staff in the Culture sector are blaming openly the arrogant and heavy-handed management style of Ottone Ramirez with even some dark and very UN talks of a "baby-Pinochet."  Will IOS evaluate the negative impact for UNESCO of this reform of the Culture Sector?    - UNESCO launched the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative ostensibly to participate in the reconstruction of this city, after years of war and destruction. 

This seemingly noble initiative was in fact a cover up operation of reinforcing French influence in Iraq in order to secure markets and work for French companies. Most of the millions received by UNESCO from the United Arab Emirates are for projects to be implemented in that particular city. Thus, in corrupted UNESCO, the dirt keeps on oozing this time in the context of Iraq.  Some member states are questioning this total degradation of UNESCO. Others, from the European Union support blindly the bulldozing of agency by DG Azoulay who will comfortably keep up with those demolishing practices and probably scale them up unbothered. 

 By repetitively supporting and praising the nonexistent work done by the French DG Azoulay, ambassadors of EU member states and those from the former colonial French-Africa, corroborate their taste for “swimming” in it the mouth wide open.

This is where UNESCO stands today, a Zombie land propitious to the flourishing of corruption, embezzlement, abuse of power and nepotism.  This is Antonio Guterres' UN. We will have more on that. Watch this site.


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