Audrey Azoulay

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Audrey Azoulay
Director-General of the UNESCO
Assumed office
15 November 2017
Preceded byIrina Bokova
Minister of Culture
In office
11 February 2016 – 10 May 2017
Prime MinisterManuel Valls
Bernard Cazeneuve
Preceded byFleur Pellerin
Succeeded byFrançoise Nyssen
Personal details
Born (1972-08-04) 4 August 1972 (age 51)
La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France
Political partySocialist Party
SpouseFrançois-Xavier Labarraque
EducationParis Dauphine University
Lancaster University
Sciences Po
École nationale d'administration

Audrey Azoulay (French pronunciation: [o.dʁɛ a.zu.lɛ]; born 4 August 1972) is a French civil servant and politician who has been serving as the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) since 2017, becoming the second female leader of the organization. She previously served as France's Minister of Culture in the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls from 2016 to 2017.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Early life and family[edit]

Azoulay was born in La Celle-Saint-Cloud to a Moroccan Jewish family from Essaouira.[3] Her father, André Azoulay, is the current senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, having previously been the adviser to his predecessor King Hassan II from 1991 to 1999.[4][5] Her mother, Katia Azoulay, is a Moroccan writer. Her aunt, Éliane, is a journalist for the French magazine Télérama. She indicates having "grown up in a very left-wing environment", in the Beaugrenelle neighborhood, with her two older sisters, Judith, who worked in the Association française d'action artistique (AFAA), and Sabrina, who is a producer.


Azoulay gained a master's degree in management sciences from Paris Dauphine University in 1994 and a master's degree in business administration from Lancaster University.[6][7][8] She also studied at Sciences Po and the École nationale d'administration (ENA)[6] in 2000 (promotion Averroès, alongside Fleur Pellerin, Alexis Kohler and Nicolas Kazadi among others).

Activism and political orientation[edit]

During her university studies, Azoulay worked at a bank, which she says she "hated". During her studies in the École Nationale d'Administration, she says she "discovered the old French anti-Semitism".[3]

Azoulay recalled having participated in demonstrations against the Devaquet bill in 1986 and against the Juppé plan in 1995, and against the candidature of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the 2002 French presidential election. Her role models are Simone Veil and Jean Zay.


Career in the public sector[edit]

In 2000, Azoulay was appointed civil administrator, assigned to the general secretariat of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government. From April 2000 to July 2003, she worked as the head of the public audiovisual sector office, especially for the strategy and the funding of sector organizations in the media development department. At the same time, she manages media expertise missions for the European Commission within the process of pre-accession programs.

In 2003, Azoulay was in charge of the conference on media strategy, audiovisual and cinema financing at Sciences Po. From September 2003 to February 2006, she worked for the Ile-de-France Regional Chamber Accounts and with the committee for inquiry into the cost and performance of public service. In 2004, she appeared in the distribution of the film "Le Grand Rôle" by the director Steve Suissa, where she played the director's assistant.

In 2006, Azoulay joined the National Center of Cinematography and the moving image (CNC), successively holding the positions of Deputy Director for Multimedia Affairs, Chief Financial and Legal Officer and Deputy Director-General.[9][10]

From 2014 until 2016, Azoulay served as an advisor on communications and cultural affairs to President François Hollande.

Minister of Culture[edit]

Azoulay succeeded Fleur Pellerin as Minister of Culture on 11 February 2016. During her time in office, she increased her department's budget by 6.6% to a total of €2.9 billion in 2017 – the largest amount of government money promised for the arts in the country's history.[11] Under her leadership, the Ministry lent support to a women's contemporary art prize launched by AWARE (Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions).[12] Internationally, she played a key role in the joint initiatives of France, the UNESCO and the United Arab Emirates to safeguard cultural heritage in conflict zones, announced in December 2016, and was a signatory to the Florence Declaration condemning the destruction of cultural sites at the first G7 culture summit in March 2017.[13] On 24 March 2017, she presented Draft Resolution 2347 on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts to the UN Security Council. This resolution, put forward by France, Italy and UNESCO, was adopted unanimously.[14][15]

Azoulay with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in 2018

By the end of 2016, Azoulay eventually decided against becoming a candidate herself in the 2017 French legislative election.[16] In the Socialist Party's presidential primaries, she endorsed Manuel Valls as the party's candidate for the 2017 French presidential election.[17] After the Socialist Party was eliminated in the first round of the election, she publicly declared her support for Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen.[18]

Director-General of UNESCO[edit]

In 2017, Azoulay was one of the nine candidates seeking to succeed Irina Bokova as Director-General of UNESCO.[19] In the final round against Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, she was elected as Director-General of UNESCO, and her candidacy was presented for approval at UNESCO's general assembly on 10 November 2017.[20] In 2021, Azoulay was elected to a second four-year term.[21]

Since 2023, Azoulay has been an ex-officio member of the United Nations High-level Panel on the Teaching Profession, co-chaired by Kersti Kaljulaid and Paula-Mae Weekes.[22]

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Azoulay has a son and a daughter with her husband François-Xavier Labarraque, who also studied at the École nationale d'administration.


  1. ^ "Audrey Azoulay". Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  2. ^ "UN Says Attacks on Heritage Sites Could Be War Crimes". Voice of America. 24 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Audrey Azoulay : "A l'ENA, j'ai découvert l'antisémitisme vieille France"". Le Journal du Dimanche (in French). 14 February 2016.
  4. ^ Ackermann, Paul (11 February 2016). "Audrey Azoulay, ministre de la Culture et "amie des artistes"" (in French). Huffington Post.
  5. ^ "Leïla Slimani reçoit les insignes d'Officier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres à Paris" (in French). Huffington Post. 23 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Rahal, Sophie (11 February 2016). "Audrey Azoulay, nouvelle ministre de la Culture, jusqu'ici, une femme de l'ombre" (in French). felerama.
  7. ^ Bommelaer, Claire (11 February 2016). "Audrey Azoulay à la Culture, une ascension fulgurante". Le Figaro (in French).
  8. ^ Cornu, Camille (11 February 2016). "Audrey Azoulay, nouvelle ministre de la Culture". Actualitte.
  9. ^ "Audrey Azoulay nommée Directrice générale déléguée du CNC" (in French). CNC.
  10. ^ "Audrey Azoulay, la surprise de François Hollande Rue de Valois". Le Monde (in French). 12 February 2016.
  11. ^ Stapley-Brown, Victoria; McGivern, Hannah (5 October 2016). "France to increase funding for museums and acquisitions in 2017 budget". The Art Newspaper.
  12. ^ Anna Sansom (16 February 2017), First French art prize for female artists awarded The Art Newspaper.
  13. ^ Emily Sharpe (26 May 2017), Who will win race to run Unesco? The Art Newspaper.
  14. ^ "Security Council Condemns Destruction, Smuggling of Cultural Heritage by Terrorist Groups, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2347 (2017)". United Nations. 24 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Audrey Azoulay, Minister for Culture and Communication of France - Europa Newswire)". Europa Newswire. 25 March 2017.
  16. ^ Stéphane Grand (14 November 2016), 2017 : La ministre de la Culture, Audrey Azoulay, renonce aux législatives L'Opinion.
  17. ^ "Hamon ou Macron: les ministres qui n'ont pas dévoilé leur choix". BFMTV (in French). Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  18. ^ "Présidentielle : ils ont appelé à voter Macron". (in French). 24 April 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  19. ^ "French minister Royal to run for U.N. development agency post". Reuters. 25 March 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  20. ^ Irish, John (13 October 2017). "UNESCO selects France's Azoulay as new chief". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  21. ^ John Irish (9 November 2021), UNESCO chief re-elected for second-term Reuters.
  22. ^ United Nations Establishes Teaching Profession High-Level Panel to Build on Outcomes of Transforming Education Summit United Nations, press release of 19 June 2023.
  23. ^ World leaders unite under new initiative to provide quality education and training for young people Archived 25 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine Generation Unlimited, press release of 21 September 2018.
  24. ^ Leadership Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
  25. ^ "Champions | International Gender Champions". Retrieved 5 June 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Culture
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Director-General of UNESCO