Thursday, October 13, 2011

The United States may withhold funding for UNESCO

The Palestinian Authority's request for full membership in the United Nations has received wide public attention, but meanwhile a more silent but equally grave political situation is playing out at UNESCO.
UNESCO’s Executive Board ended its 187th session on 6 October marked by the request for membership to UNESCO by Palestine. The Board voted on the request for Palestinian membership on October 5. Forty members voted in favor of admission, four against and there were 14 abstentions. The Board’s recommendation for admission will now be submitted to UNESCO’s General Conference (26 October to 10 November), where it requires a two-thirds majority vote to become effective.

The United States Ambassador to UNESCO released a statement explaining the U.S. opposition to the membership at this time.
We take the floor to express our strong opposition to this resolution. Granting the Palestinians full membership now in a specialized agency such as UNESCO is premature. Given that the UN Security Council is reviewing the Palestinian application, we believe it is inappropriate for a UN specialized agency to also take up the same matter.
The New York Times reported:
The State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said that lawyers were busily reviewing how and when the Palestinian membership would affect the American financing. She said the administration would try to block a vote of the full Unesco membership even as it encourages a resumption of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. 
The issue is a hot one in Congress. In a statement on Tuesday, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, urged the Obama administration to “make clear that any decision to upgrade the Palestinian mission’s status by Unesco or any other U.N. entity will lead to a cutoff of U.S. funds to that entity.”
U.S. Code Title 22, Section 287e includes the following:
“No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.” This was adopted by a Democratic Congress in 1989 as Public Law 101-246. 
“The United States shall not make any voluntary or assessed contribution: (1) to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, or (2) to the United Nations, if the United Nations grants full membership as a state in the United Nations to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, during any period in which such membership is effective.” This was adopted by a Democratic Congress in 1994 as Public Law 103-236.
The first of these provisions was enacted into law in 1989. In that year Palestine applied for UNESCO membership and the Israeli government submitted a statement as to why it believed Palestine did not qualify for UNESCO membership:

The Huffington Post reports:
Ismail Tilawi, the representative of UNESCO in the Palestinian territories, says that since the formation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s, a request for Palestinian membership has been on the agenda of every UNESCO General Conference, which convenes every two years.
The motion to admit Palestine fully to membership in UNESCO apparently enjoys wide support among the 193 Member States, certainly enough to receive the two-thirds majority of "States present and voting" required for admission as a full Member. However, there is hope that a compromise along the lines of some sort of Palestinian membership short of "full" might be reached.

Senior budget officers at UNESCO, analyzing the consequences of failure to receive the U.S. funding, foresee immediate slashes in program activity, layoffs in personnel beginning in January, and other credible threats, including to UNESCO's pension system. However, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries hint they might be willing to fill the funding gap, a gesture the implications of which remain to be examined.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova will spend Thursday and Friday of this week in Washington attempting to explain the impossible position in which UNESCO has been placed. State’s Mid-East negotiator David Hale in Paris will attempt to find a solution, perhaps trying to convince Palestinians to accept something less than full membership.

1 comment:

John Daly said...

"Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which was signed by each member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, the House panel that appropriates UNESCO’s U.S. funding. The letter, initiated be Congressman Rothman, urges UNESCO not to admit the Palestinian Liberation Organization into UNESCO. The letter states that 'any recognition of Palestine as a Member State would not only jeopardize the hope for a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but would endanger the United States’ contribution to UNESCO.'”