UNESCO chief has pleaded to the United States to “find a way forward” to continue its support to the world body as it will be “impossible” for the organisation to maintain its activities following the U.S. decision to snap funding on Palestine’s membership issue.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Director-General Irina Bokova said the U.S. is a “critical partner” of UNESCO and expressed hope that a solution to the funding issue will soon be found.
She expressed regret over U.S.’ decision to stop funding to it following Palestine’s membership to the organisation, saying the reduced funding will make it “impossible” for the agency to implement crucial programmes in education and support emerging democracies in fight against extremism.
“UNESCO is encouraged that the United States will maintain its membership in the organisation and hopes that a resolution to the funding issue will ultimately be identified,” Ms. Bokova said in a statement.
“Until that happens, it will be impossible for us to maintain our current level of activity.” she said.
She urged the U.S. administration, Congress and the American people to find a way forward and continue “support for UNESCO in these turbulent times.”
UNESCO’s General Conference had on Monday voted to admit Palestine as a full member of the Paris-based agency.
The decision was supported by 107 member states.
The U.S. had opposed the move and announced it will stop payment of $60 million it was going to make to UNESCO this month.
“The United States is a critical partner in UNESCO’s work. The withholding of U.S. dues and other financial contributions — required by U.S. law — will weaken UNESCO’s effectiveness and undermine its ability to build free and open societies,” she said.
At a time of economic crisis and social transformation, UNESCO’s work is vital to promote global stability and democratic values, which Ms. Bokova said were core interests of the U.S..
U.S. funding has enabled UNESCO to develop and sustain free and competitive media in Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt.
In Afghanistan, U.S. support has helped UNESCO to teach thousands of police officers to read and write.
UNESCO literacy programmes in other conflict-affected countries provide people skills and confidence to fight violent extremism, Ms. Bokova said, adding that the agency is training journalists to cover elections objectively in a bid to sustain the democratic spirit of the ‘Arab Spring’
“Across the world, we stand up for each journalist who is attacked or killed, because we are the U.N. agency with the mandate to protect freedom of expression. In Washington, earlier this year, I awarded the UNESCO Press Freedom Award to an imprisoned Iranian journalist, Ahmad Zeidabadi,” she said.
UNESCO is also the only U.N. agency with the mandate to promote Holocaust education worldwide, and has, with funding provided by the U.S. and Israel, been developing curricula to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten, she said.
U.S. support has also enabled UNESCO to put science at the service of people, Ms. Bokova said, citing as an example a global effort to expand ocean-based tsunami warning systems.