Sunday, April 14, 2013

The United States Government Should Restore Funding to UNESCO

Countries that have recognized the State of Palestine.Source: Night w

The United States policy is that a two state solution is needed to resolve the long standing dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. According to Wikipedia, "of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 132 (68.4%) have recognized the State of Palestine as of April 2013.  On 29 November 2012, the General Assembly granted Palestine non-member observer state status in United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19." UNESCO granted membership to Palestine in 2011.

U.S. law requires that the government withhold funding from any United Nations agency that accepts Palestine as a member state. Apparently, two decades ago when the legislation was passed and signed into law, it was felt that recognition of Palestine by UN agencies would militate against the successful negotiation of an agreement between Israel and Palestine settling their disputed border and the management of their territories.

The Need for the Legislation to Be Revised

The legislation is badly worded. The operative portion reads:
"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."
It is not clear what constitutes "an affiliated organization of the United Nations". It seems likely that the term would include the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the other International Financial Institutions, the World Health Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and many other organizations. Nor is it clear what states fail to have "the internationally recognized attributes of statehood". Do Somalia and Syrian Arab Republic meet that definition in spite of their failed governments? Does Palestine not meet that definition in spite of the fact that most of the world's nations have recognized it as a state?

Given this lack of clarity in the provision, it might be that the U.S. Government would have to withhold funding from the World Bank (which includes both Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic as member states) and other agencies critical to our nation/s interests.

The provision also has no sunset clause so no matter how conditions change in the future it will continue in force until there is an act of Congress to change or repeal it.

There is a simple solution to the revision of the legislation. Amend it to give authority to the President to waive the provision if he finds it to be in the nation's interest to do so. The Congress will of course continue to define the contributions to UN agencies through appropriations legislation and can withhold funding from any international agency that it chooses.

Restore Funding to UNESCO

Last week the administration requested funding for UNESCO in its FY2014 State and Foreign Operations budget proposal:

The Administration seeks Congressional support for legislation that would provide authority to waive legislative restrictions that, if triggered, would prohibit paying U.S. contributions to United Nations specialized agencies that grant the Palestinians the same standing as member states or full membership as a state. Should the Congress pass this waiver legislation, the FY 2014 funding specifically requested for UNESCO would cover the FY 2014 UNESCO assessment and the FY 2013 and FY 2014 Contingent Requirements funding would cover arrears which accrued in FY 2012 and FY 2013. 
 The administration is no doubt referring to UNESCO's programs in education, science, culture and communications. UNESCO has been notably supportive of U.S. policy objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan implementing programs supported by voluntary contributions.

Perhaps more important is the fact that there is a huge network of people and organizations worldwide that affiliate themselves with UNESCO's objective of building the defenses of peace in the minds of men. Those networks include national commissions for UNESCO, people and organizations supporting World Heritage sites, educators implementing Education for All, scientists involved in UNESCO's network of biosphere reserves, those involved in UNESCO's regional tsunami warning systems, scientists involved in UNESCO's many water centers and programs, and many others. It is important that the United States continue to show its support for UNESCO's mission so that these people will retain their respect for the United States.

1 comment:

Maureen McClure said...

Time for all sides to get serious about a two state solution. Everybody loses in the short term. Everybody wins in the longer term.