Last week, the United States lost its vote in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization for nonpayment of dues.
UNESCO has been one of the basic units of the United Nations since 1946. It has 195 members, including Palestine, which joined in 2011.
The United States was a member from 1946 to 1984, when it withdrew because it considered UNESCO too favorable to Third World causes.
It rejoined in 2002, providing 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget. In 2011, U.S. laws on organizations that admitted Palestine, passed at Israel’s behest, forced the Obama Administration to stop paying U.S. dues. Under UNESCO’s rules, the United States lost its vote after two years of no dues.
All this happened because of UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine. It’s ironic, then, that the United States is putting on a full-court press to urge Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate an agreement to include Palestine alongside Israel as states in the former Palestinian territory.
Two problems remain for the United States. First, UNESCO performs functions that involve important issues such as literacy, democracy, freedom of the press, girls’ education, HIV/AIDS prevention, and designating World Heritage sites (more than 20 of which are in the United States). The United States will no longer have a say in these UNESCO activities.
UNESCO deals with critical global subjects. The Obama Administration needs to take steps soon to ensure that America’s voice is heard.