US Defunds UNESCO Over Palestinian Vote

Monday, 31 Oct 2011 03:39 PM

By Jim Meyers

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The United States is cutting off all American funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) following a vote on Monday to approve the Palestinian Authority’s full membership in the agency.

Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, has applied for U.N. recognition by the Security Council and is moving ahead with applications to join individual U.N. agencies as the authority awaits the council’s vote. The vote on UNESCO membership is the first vote for membership in an agency.

“The general assembly decides to admit Palestine as a member of UNESCO,” said the resolution passed in Paris, which was adopted by 107 countries, including China, India, and France, with 14 countries voting against it and 52 abstaining. The United States, Israel, Germany, Canada, and Australia were among the nations voting against the resolution.

Two U.S. laws require the Obama administration to cut funding to UNESCO.

Public Law 101-246, which the Democratic-controlled Congress passed in 1990, states that “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.”

Public Law 103-236 Title IV, passed in 1994, prohibits “voluntary or assessed contribution 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.”

The State Department announced on Monday that the United States has stopped funding UNESCO because of the vote, and it said the Obama administration would not make a planned $60 million payment to the agency due in November, according to the Washington Post.

UNESCO receives 22 percent of its operating budget from the United States, about $80 million a year.

Americans for UNESCO co-chairs Esther Coopersmith and Richard Arndt wrote in a letter to supporters this month about the possible U.S. funding cutoff:

“Senior budget officers at UNESCO, analyzing the consequences, foresee immediate slashes in program activity, layoffs in personnel beginning in January, and other credible threats, including [to] UNESCO’s pension system.”

CNN reported that an Oct. 13 letter signed by members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, which appropriates America’s funding for UNESCO, stated: “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.”

The Obama administration and UNESCO “had tried to avert the approval and diplomats had desperately negotiated with Congress, the Palestinians and other UNESCO member states to find a resolution that would preserve the agency’s budget,” according to The New York Times.

UNESCO is a global development agency whose missions include promoting literacy, clean water and education, and is charged with designating world heritage sites.

During the 1980s, the United States and Britain withdrew from UNESCO, accusing the agency of mismanagement and an anti-Western political agenda. Britain returned in 1997 and President George W. Bush restored the U.S. relationship in 2002, citing wide-ranging reforms.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the U.N. vote “reckless” and demanded the cut-off of funding. The Florida Republican chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has approved a bill that would give America discretion over how, or even whether, it pays for U.N. activities.

Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement saying: “Today’s reckless action by UNESCO is anti-Israel and anti-peace. It rewards the Palestinian leadership’s dangerous scheme to bypass negotiations with Israel and seek recognition of a self-declared ‘Palestinian state,’ and takes us further from peace in the Middle East.

“This is only the beginning. The Palestinians will now seek full membership in other U.N. bodies.

“Existing U.S. law mandates that we cut off funding to any U.N. body that approves such a request. The administration must stop trying to find ways not to fully implement this law, and instead cut off funding to UNESCO immediately. And Congress must pass pending U.N. reform legislation to cut off funding to any U.N. entity that grants any upgraded status to ‘Palestine.’”

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax in September, Ros-Lehtinen pointed out that American taxpayers last year gave $7.7 billion to the United Nations, accounting for 22 percent of its operating budget and 27 percent of its peacekeeping operations. “What are we getting in return? We’re getting an agency that votes against us at every opportunity,” she said.

“I say let’s change this around. If we don’t like the Human Rights Council, then let’s not fund it. We should pick and choose cafeteria style which groups we want to help.”



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