Wednesday, November 9, 2011

UNESCO Discovers That There Are Consequences For Its Actions

UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural agency said earlier today (November 9) that it plans to cut costs and launch an emergency fund to raise cash after a vote to grant the Palestinians full membership led to a cutoff in vital US, Canadian and Israeli funding, according to its director general, Irina Bokova, who previously served as Bulgaria foreign minister.

As is well known, UNESCO promotes global education and press freedom among other tasks, has a US$65 million shortfall in its 2011 budget after it broke ranks with the UN itself in October and gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) full membership.

COMMENT: Surprisingly, no country has stepped forward to fill the financial gap, after Washington, Ottawa and Jerusalem cut off their significant distributions to the cultural agency. US legislation prohibits funding to any UN agency that grants full membership to any group that does not have "internationally recognized attributes" of statehood.

When asked whether any other UNESCO members such as wealthy Gulf Arab states, which also backed the Palestinian bid for membership in UNESCO, had offered to make up the immediate cash flow needs, Bokova said no.

Bokova has said that she does not believe the US would disengage from UNESCO in the long term, although if it did not pay its contributions for two years its voting rights would be suspended.

Strangely, President Barack Obama is reportedly talking to Members of Congress about funding UNESCO, a UN agency for which there is little sentiment in Washington, given the US' debt crisis. Why can't a US president just enforce his own country's laws?

Given how dysfunctional the UN is generally and the breadth of problems they create rather than solve, hopefully the US, Canada and Israel will hold firm in their positions and not restore funding to UNESCO. Insofar as the US losing its voting rights in UNESCO, there are much worse ramifications for being consistent.

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