UNESCO has been forced to halt education on the Holocaust after the U.S. stopped contributing to the cultural agency back in 2011. The U.S. since then has had its voting rights revoked in the UN cultural agency UNESCO, say U.N. officials. The lapse in payment comes in retaliation for UNESCO’s move to induct Palestine as a member to the cultural agency in 2011.
Israel finds itself in the same boat as the U.S., after they stopped paying their membership fees along side the U.S. in 2011. According to UNESCO the U.S. contributions to the agency constitutes 1/5 of the agency’s fundings, causing the agency to discontinue many of its services, among them holocaust education and non-discrimination techniques.
The Paris-based U.N. agency is tasked with declaring world heritage sites, as well as providing education and promotion of freedom of press.
U.S. officials were vague when speaking to reporters about the issue, with U.S. ambassador to UNESCO David Killion saying to Reuters news that “We intend to continue our engagement with UNESCO in every possible way.”, making no mention of how such engagement would be conducted.
The U.S. says it cannot legally contribute to an organization that implicitly recognizes Palestine as an official state. UNESCO membership does not necessarily denote legal state status, but Palestine’s membership does promote the idea that Palestine is a recognizable entity.
Palestine’s move towards statehood began with gaining observer status in the U.N. back in 2012. The U.S. and Israel were vehemently opposed to the move, saying Palestine could now leverage its way out of talks with Israel and address the U.N. directly.
American influence on culture and education is at stake with the UNESCO’S loss of U.S. aid. The loss of voting rights over the issue of Palestine leaves many observers confused and concerned that the political issue between Israel and Palestine weighs too heavily on U.S. policy making.
The U.S.’s $80 million a year contribution may not seem like a lot, but to an Agency whose budget is less than half a billion a year, UNESCO has been put on the brink of financial bankruptcy.
Some are concerned that a lack of U.S. presence in the decision making of UNESCO could hurt western backed cultural expansion, leaving the vacuum to be supplemented by anti-western sentiment from Arab-led criticism within the organization, especially in the wake of the U.S.’s intransigence to the UNESCO-Palestine membership issue.
Washington-based U.S. National Commissioner for UNESCO Phyllis Magrab, says “We (U.S.) won’t be able to have the same clout… In effect, we (now won’t) have a full tool box. We’re missing our hammer.”
Criticism of the U.S. law which prevents the automatic freezing of funding run rampant within the U.N. and the international community.
Amongst the programs slashed in the wake of the U.S. absence includes the restoring of water facilities in Iraq, Holocaust education and awareness programs, ethnic and minority tolerance, and non-violence techniques in Africa, all programs which the U.S. and Israel benefit from when they succeed.
Rep. Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota said that “The United States must not voluntarily forfeit its leadership in the world community,”
by John Amaruso