Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow

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Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, 2008
Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, 1974

Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, GCIH (born March 20, 1921)[1][2] is a Senegalese educator. Born in Dakar, M'bow served in France and North Africa during World War II after volunteering for the French army, serving in the French Army, with the Free French, and finally in the French Air Force.[3] After the end of the war he studied geography at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

M'bow began working for UNESCO in 1953 and was the director-general from 1974 to 1987, being the first black African to head a United Nations support organisation. He called the Commission over the Problems of Communication which delivered the MacBride Report (so called after its president, Seán MacBride) in May 1980, supporting international claims for a New World Information and Communication Order. His departure in 1987 followed criticism for administrative and budgetary practices and the US withdrawal from UNESCO in 1984 (followed by the UK in 1985). M'Bow was regularly criticized for losing sight of UNESCO's original goals, and accused of turning the organization into a vehicle of anti-American propaganda.

In 1980, M'Bow was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Belgrade.[4]

In 1984, the Government of the United States announced its intention to withdraw from UNESCO, and American newspaper columnist Flora Lewis, writing in The New York Times, described the organization as "a totally politicized, demoralized bureaucracy whose chief concern is to provide cushy jobs for politicians unwanted at home and a forum for attacking the very concepts Unesco was supposed to serve - human rights for all, press freedom, unrestricted access to culture." Lewis described M'Bow himself as "an ambitious man who has cultivated back-scratching to a fine art". In a report after a decade has passed since his term in UNESCO, M'Bow became the best Director-General of the organization according to statistics gathered during his term.[5]

M'Bow retired to his home country of Senegal in 1987.



  1. ^ El Hareir, Idris (2011). The Spread of Islam Throughout the World. UNESCO. p. 906. ISBN 9231041533.
  2. ^ Profile of Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow
  3. ^ Meisler, Stanley (2011). United Nations: A History. Grove Press. ISBN 9780802194992. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Flora Lewis, Foreign Affairs, Airing UNESCO's Closets from The New York Times dated March 1, 1984
  6. ^ "Cidadãos Nacionais Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
Government offices
Preceded by
René Maheu
Director-General of UNESCO
1974 – 1987
Succeeded by
Federico Mayor Zaragoza