World Bulletin/News Desk
Washington lost its vote in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Friday.
The penalty follows the US’ failure to meet its financial obligations for two consecutive years as a result of UNESCO’s 2011 move to allow Palestinians full membership as a state. Under US law, no UN agency that suggests recognition of Palestinian statehood claims can be funded.
UNESCO’s constitution stipulates that any member state that fails to pay its dues for two years loses its vote.
“The United States intends to continue its engagement with UNESCO in every possible way – we can attend meetings and participate in debate, and we will maintain our seat and vote as an elected member of the Executive Board until 2015,” said US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki in a statement released to the press Friday.
Despite losing its vote, the US will continue to be a member of UNESCO.
Psaki added that the Obama administration has attempted to amend the US law that prohibits US funding, saying, “President Obama has requested legislative authority to allow the United States to continue to pay its dues to UN agencies that admit the Palestinians as a member state when doing so is in the U.S. national interest. Although that proposal has not yet been enacted by Congress, the President remains committed to that goal.”
U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion told delegates at UNESCO's biennial general conference in Paris, after the suspension was announced officially, that Washington was "working tirelessly" to restore funding.
Also addressing the conference, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova voiced regret at the loss of the U.S. voting rights, insisting that Washington had a vital role to play in the organisation.
"This is not only about financing. This is about values. This is the 'smart power' that is in such need today, to lay the foundations for lasting peace and sustainable development," she said.
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, is responsible for designating World Heritage sites, promoting global education and supporting press freedom, among other tasks.
The withdrawal of U.S. funding - which totalled about $240 million, or some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget - has plunged it into a funding crisis and forced it to cut programmes.