Target: U.S. Congress
Goal: Allow U.S. to resume providing vital funding to UNESCO for important global projects
When the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to accept Palestine as a full member last year, the decision inadvertently suspended all funding from another member: the United States. Now, scrambling to make up for the $144 million in dues withheld by the U.S., UNESCO is making significant cuts to nearly every aspect of its organization.
Perhaps most devastating is that, at a time in history when Arab countries are fighting for democratic governments, UNESCO is now limited in the support it can give for gender equality, freedom of expression, and protection for journalists. The U.S. Congress stands in a crucial position and must resume full financial contribution to UNESCO.
UNESCO was not the only party surprised by the sudden refusal of 22 percent of its budget; the Obama administration was shocked as well. In the early 1990s, Congress passed two laws that called for immediate suspension of funds to any United Nations agency that granted membership to Palestine. At the time, the Palestine Liberation Organization was deemed a terrorist group and did not recognize Israel.
Now, despite efforts by the Obama administration and the U.S. representative to UNESCO, David T. Killion, not to mention over a decade in diplomatic developments between Israel and Palestine, the funds have failed to reappear. Those in Congress who support the cutoff point to the message it sends to the international community: Israel will be supported at all costs, and the United States has the power to give crippling warnings to the United Nations.
UNESCO’s efforts to use education, science, culture, and communication as mechanisms to promote international peace and understanding are worthy and important goals in the current global climate. Yet, for those U.S. legislators unconvinced, a simple reminder of those American interests now threatened by the funding suspension should be enough to push for full reinstatement.
Programs that promote the education of young women and police in Afghanistan, systems that could provide early warnings of tsunamis, and training in journalism and democracy across North Africa all serve U.S interests abroad. Most significantly, the U.S ambassador to the UN, Susan E. Rice, points out that the U.S Congress has allowed Palestinians to dictate U.S. policy, directly affecting issues of national security.
Tell the U.S. Congress that UNESCO is an essential force for good in the global community and full funding must be restored.
Dear U.S. Congress,
Last year’s immediate suspension of funding to UNESCO following Palestine’s membership has crippled this global force for good. By cutting the U.S. contribution, UNESCO lost 22 percent of its budget and has had to make large-scale cuts to nearly every aspect of its organization. UNESCO’s work—promoting international peace and understanding through education, science, culture, and communication—should be encouraged, not stopped.
Equally troubling is the inverse effect this decision has had on U.S interests. UNESCO’s work has provided training, education, and programing in North Africa and the Middle East that has encouraged democratic institutions—an effort that directly affects U.S. security endeavors. By withholding money from UNESCO, Congress has allowed Palestine to dictate U.S. policies.
The laws passed in the 1990s calling for this cutoff were developed in a different time—the Palestine Liberation Organization was considered a terrorist group and did not yet recognize Israel. Things have changed, and it is time that the U.S. Congress recognize this and end this disastrous funding suspension.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Harald Groven via Flickr