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Qatar officially announces candidate for UNESCO chief

Qatar has formally submitted Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari’s bid to run for the director-general position of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), QNA reports.

If elected, Al Kuwari, Qatar’s former long-time culture minister and current cultural advisor to the Emir, would be the first Arab to hold the position. He would succeed Irina Bokova, current leader of the Paris-based organization whose term ends in 2017.

Al Zubarah Fort is Qatar's only UNESCO heritage site.

Rhandy Pelaez/Flickr

Al Zubarah Fort is Qatar’s only UNESCO heritage site.

Qatar has joined an international campaign this week to counter what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is calling “the propaganda of cultural cleansing.”

The Unite4Heritage movement was launched a year ago in response to the destruction of cultural sites in conflict zones, particularly in Iraq.

As part of efforts to preserve such sites, Unite4Heritage has asked individuals, especially young people from the Arab region, to send photos and write short stories about heritage sites that are important to them, organizers said in a statement last March.

Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari

Coffeedrinker115 / Wikipedia

Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari

At a press conference yesterday, Qatar’s former culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari– who is vying to become UNESCO’s next director-general – listed several historical sites that have been destroyed or desecrated in recent years, such as rare statues and sculptures in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

In February 2015, ISIL released a video purporting to show militants in Mosul using sledgehammers and drills to smash statues that it described as “false idols.”

However, Al Kuwari said such groups have adopted a “holy ignorance.”

“These crimes are a sign of cultural terrorism that is taking place throughout the Arab region,” he was quoted as saying.

Education at home

Locally, the Qatar government has said it’s planning more school trips and public lectures to raise awareness of its own cultural sites.

Al Kuwari said educating residents about their heritage is the key to preserving a country’s historical artifacts, according to the Peninsula.

It quoted Al Kuwari, who is now a cultural advisor to the Emiri Diwan, as saying:

“When our young citizens fully discover and appreciate the depth of our history and the importance of our indigenous archaeological sites, they have the realization of bearing the responsibility of preserving them, as they become more conscious, responsible and enthusiastic about the future without breaking away from the richness and traditions of the past.”

Currently, Qatar’s only UNESCO site is Al Zubarah, which joined the World Heritage List in 2013. 

Thoughts?

Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari

Coffeedrinker115 / Wikipedia

Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari

Gulf countries have reportedly renewed their support for Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari as he runs to be the next director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

If elected, Qatar’s long-time culture minister would be the first Arab to hold the position.

Last week, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, expressed support for Al Kuwari during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Al Raya reported.

Al-Zayani lauded Al Kuwari for his “exceptional efforts in enriching the cultural scene in Qatar and the influential roles he played in enhancing the cultural collaboration between GCC states throughout his appointment as the minister of culture and heritage in Qatar,” the newspaper said.

Sheikha Moza

UN Geneva/Flickr

Sheikha Moza

According to QNA, this was Al Kuwari’s first visit to the kingdom since declaring his official candidacy for the UNESCO post, and came “in recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role in preserving and maintaining Arab heritage and supporting culture on all fronts.”

Qatar has long been a supporter of the UN’s cultural agency. In 2011, Sheikha Moza pledged to help fulfill its education goals after the group lost a fifth of its funding from the US.

The nation had frozen millions of dollars in contributions after member states voted to make Palestine a full member of the group.

Nomination

Al Kuwari was officially named as Qatar’s nominee for the position of UNESCO director-general last year. If elected, he will succeed Irina Bokova, current leader of the Paris-based organization whose term ends in 2017.

Al Zubarah Fort is Qatar's only UNESCO heritage site.

Rhandy Pelaez/Flickr

Al Zubarah Fort is Qatar\’s only UNESCO heritage site.

Last October, QNA reported that the GCC ministers of culture had lent their unswerving support of Al Kuwari at the conclusion of their 21st meeting in Doha.

Al-Zayani’s reiteration last week consolidates the pledge that the Gulf countries will support Qatar’s contender.

Al Kuwari served as Minister of Information and Culture from 1992 to 1997 and was named Qatar’s minister of culture and heritage in 2008. He held the post until last month’s Cabinet shakeup.

At present, he serves as the cultural advisor to the Emir.

Doha International Book Fair, for illustrative purposes only.

Navin Sam

Doha International Book Fair, for illustrative purposes only.

How other nations outside of this region are viewing Al Kuwari’s candidacy remains unclear.

The official has previously been criticized by some organizations for allowing, in his capacity as culture minister, the inclusion of anti-Jewish material in Qatar’s 2015 International Book Fair.

Resume

Al-Kuwari obtained his bachelor’s degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Cairo University, according to a brief biography published by the government.

He studied political philosophy at La Sorbonne and acquired a PhD in political science from The State University of New York at Stony Brook.

For illustrative purposes only.

Ashitaka San / Flickr

For illustrative purposes only.

He had an earlier career in diplomacy where he served in several residential and non-resident ambassadorial positions in Greece, Switzerland, the US, Brazil and Venezuela among other countries.

Between 1984 and 1990, he was also Qatar’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Al-Kuwari is trilingual, speaking Arabic, English and French. He presided over Qatar’s delegation to the 2012 Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which concluded with the Gulf state joining the organization of French-speaking nations.

Thoughts?