Corruption in the UNESCO

The director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “former” Communist Party operative Irina Bokova (shown), is facing what appears to be an internal rebellion among the controversial UN organ’s own staff members. Among other concerns, more than 150 employees of UNESCO who spoke out portrayed Bokova as an out-of-control and deeply corrupt official who has been abusing the organization for her own personal benefit since she got there. And now, she is apparently working to install a friendly successor — preferably one loyal to a communist regime — to ensure that her alleged mismanagement and abuse of power are not exposed. But the truth is coming out anyway.

In a May 5 letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 159 current and former UNESCO staffers said that Bokova must either resign or be fired from her post. Blasting what they said were Bokova’s many personal and professional failings — not to mention her well-known background with the mass-murdering Bulgarian Communist Party — the UN employees also said she must be prevented from continuing to travel around the globe wasting the organization’s scarce resources, “creating chaos,” and appointing top managers who lack basic skills and qualifications. If she refuses to resign, “she should be dismissed immediately by the Governing bodies of UNESCO for major diplomatic and managerial errors,” said the letter, which was also sent to the prime minister and president of Bulgaria.

On top of that, the employees called for internal and external investigations of Bokova and dozens of her “collaborators.” “Taxpayers deserve to know where and how UNESCO money was used over the last 4 years,” explained the letter to UN chief Guterres, who sources say has received it. “We therefore appeal to the UNSG, to the internal and to the external UNESCO auditors for a rapid investigation of Bokova’s decisions on using UNESCO funds over that period. The findings must be made public, then discussed by the Executive Board in order to trigger off the accountability and impeachment procedure.” The signatories also pointed to comments made by government ambassadors to UNESCO, including Arab and European officials, highlighting problems at the UN agency.

The document, which was obtained by The New American and verified by sources inside the organization, also praised the current UN chief, a leading socialist, who triumphed over Bokova in the race to lead the UN. As this magazine reported, Bokova was being pushed by a wide array of powerful forces, ranging from the Kremlin and the Bulgarian Communist establishment to mega-banker Baron Eric de Rothschild of the unfathomably wealthy Rothschild banking dynasty. In the end, though, with her well-documented communist past and swirling accusations of corruption and scandal, even the army of former operatives for the Bulgarian “little KGB” that ran her campaign was unable to build enough support for her failed bid.

UNESCO employees were obviously pleased with that. “Under the leadership of one of the contesters for the UNSG position, the former communist regime activist Ms. Irina Bokova, who luckily for the entire world did not get the job, our wonderful and deeply cherished Organization is totally agonizing,” they wrote. “Ms. Bokova is a disastrous Director-General, a mean human being and we are all happy that you won over her. After destroying UNESCO, she could have been in a position to dismantle the UN. The diplomatic battle over the UNSG position exposed the UNESCO Director General and transparently demonstrated her managerial ineptitude and total lack of moral values to lead UNESCO.”

Among the many criticisms of Bokova outlined by the outraged UN agency staffers was her enabling of an anti-Israel resolution downplaying the Jewish people’s links to the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and other religious sites in Jerusalem. “By her absence from the usual diplomatic process organized inside UNESCO that all previous Directors Generals led themselves, by her time spent on campaigning instead of working at UNESCO, by her interest directed only towards her personal ambition, she greatly contributed to this outcome that legitimately raises Israel’s and U.S. ire,” they wrote. “The Russian ‘Red Princess’ is the only DG that proved capable to rile up simultaneously both Arab countries and Israel and its supporters.”

Also sparking outrage among agency staffers was Bokova’s personal role in admitting the “State of Palestine” to the UN agency as a full-fledged member state, an act that immediately triggered a statutory ban on U.S. funding of UNESCO. That blow resulted in a loss of about a fourth of UNESCO’s budget. Next, in an apparent effort to please the mass-murdering Communist Chinese dictatorship — which held a key vote on the UN Security Council as she was seeking the UN’s top job — Bokova alienated the Japanese government, another one of UNESCO’s top financiers. According to the letter, Bokova’s antics have resulted in governments refusing to hand over some $750 million that they otherwise would have paid to UNESCO.

Bokova’s use and abuse of UNESCO resources to pursue her own ambitions — namely, the highest UN post — also came under fire from staffers. They noted that in seeking the appointment, she named UNESCO deputies from four of the five permanent members of the Security Council “in total disregard for normal practices and with no consideration for qualifications and competences.” They also accused Bokova of “stealing funds” from programs aimed at promoting girls’ education, the safety of journalists, and free speech so she could travel around the world campaigning for the position of UN secretary-general. In all, they said, more than $3 million were “effectively stolen” from priority UNESCO activities. “Only for that proven deed she should be asked to resign immediately,” they said.

Along with that, she “enhanced bad practices within the organization such as corruption and traffic of influence,” the staffers and their representatives wrote. “Bokova is neither respected nor appreciated by UNESCO’s staff who considers her unfair, unreliable and selfish,” the more than 150 current and former UNESCO employees, under the banner of “Save UNESCO,” said in the letter. “Also, using the private jets of presidents for her travels is not passive but active corruption.” Other examples of malfeasance highlighted in the document include Bokova’s refusal to disclose her financial declaration as other UN high officials do, preventing UNESCO’s Ethics Office from investigating her financial situation, lying on her CV to inflate her credentials, and more.

In an exclusive story published in January, this magazine reported on insiders within the organization trying to blow the whistle on widespread internal corruption, nepotism, and more. Multiple governments, including many of UNESCO’s top donors, were fleeing the organization, with several, including the United Kingdom, issuing scathing criticism of UNESCO and its leadership. Officials with UNESCO called for an investigation by an external auditor to sort out the facts. The Bulgarian watchdog group Bivol conducted an investigation and found that Bokova’s luxury properties across multiple countries could not be accounted for with her taxpayer-funded salary, even when adding in her husband’s tax-funded salary.

On her way out the door, though, with her term ending later this year, UNESCO sources told The New American at the time that Chinese Communist agent Qian Tang, who leads UNESCO’s “education sector,” was seen as a good candidate for the job by Bokova. He is now among the finalists, along with a number of candidates from communist and Islamic governments such as Vietnam, Qatar, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Iraq. Bokova is known to be close to the strongman ruling Azerbaijan, which has attracted scrutiny from members of the U.S. Congress. There is also said to be an effort to pack the agency’s leadership — the top job, the executive board, and the president of the general conference — with Islamic officials. Either way, the goal is to ensure that no serious investigations occur after she leaves office.

A well-informed senior UNESCO official who requested anonymity to speak freely — after all, the UN has a long and sordid history of persecuting whistleblowers — outlined the plot. “Bokova is desperately trying to push for a successor from a friendly country [government],” the source told The New American in an interview. “At least three of the candidates —  Egypt, Azerbaijan, and China — and possibly Vietnam, are said to have been thrown in the game by Bokova in order to get a successor who would not touch her dirt. Promises have been made to all those candidates. So she is playing these people, too, and in full knowledge that they are not suitable for the post she is nonetheless pushing for their candidacies. The Chinese candidate tops this game.”

The source also said that Guterres reacted to the letter by giving Bokova advice on how to avoid investigation. According to the source, Guterres is worried about doing anything that might be perceived as “revenge” against his leading competitor for the top UN post. However, he also is said to be concerned about allowing the scandals to pass without consequences — especially with the UN facing growing scrutiny in the media and among U.S. lawmakers for corruption, impunity, and more. Indeed, despite their differences, Guterres and Bokova share quite a bit in common. Bokova’s renamed Bulgarian Communist Party, which murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people over its history, is a member in good standing of the Socialist International, which Guterres led prior to taking his current job at the UN.

UNESCO has a long history of being under the control of communists, corruptocrats, mass murderers, tyrants, and other extremists. Indeed, the extremism was so outrageous that President Ronald Reagan withdrew from UNESCO entirely. The agency continues to push its radical ideological agenda on children worldwide, most recently issuing a report demanding more globalist and socialist indoctrination of children via textbooks. It remains unclear how the Trump administration intends to deal with UNESCO, which remains ineligible for U.S. funding under federal law.

Unless Bokova resigns or is removed from her post, she will remain on the job until November, at which point the next director-general will take over. The selection of the next leader is currently ongoing. Sources told The New American that the letter would likely be released publicly in the coming weeks, especially if no efforts are made to rein in Bokova’s alleged reign of criminality and corruption. Bokova has refused to respond to repeated requests for comment from The New American magazine. Bulgarian officials who received the letter have not commented either. But one thing is certain: UNESCO and its leadership are far from unique within the increasingly corrupt and lawless UN.

Photo of Irina Bokova: UNESCO

Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is normally based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU or on Facebook. He can be reached at anewman@thenewamerican.com.

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