Cutoff of U.S. Money Leads Unesco to Slash Programs – NYTimes.com

Meanwhile, at Unesco, austerity kicks in, potentially impacting key agenda items such a education among the most threatened areas of the globe:

The cutoff last October came as a shock, Ms. Bokova said, because the United States observed it immediately, withholding the $72 million in dues it would normally have paid at the end of the year, money that had already been allocated or spent. The United States’ share was 22 percent of the Unsesco budget, the proportion it pays throughout the United Nations system.

“They say don’t miss a good crisis to make reform, but I think it’s too good of a crisis,” Ms. Bokova said. When Unesco did not receive the American money late last year, it immediately used its working capital fund of $31 million for the budget, froze all programs, canceled any program in the pipeline, ended some programs, froze hiring, initiated a voluntary retirement plan, changed its travel rules, reduced translations, renegotiated contracts and limited the use of outside consultants.

“I can’t think of a single program that was not affected,” Ms. Bokova said.

The suspension of payments also took the Obama administration by surprise. Congress had passed two little-noticed laws in the early 1990s requiring an immediate cutoff of money to any United Nations agency that accepted Palestine as a member. Efforts by the American ambassador, David T. Killion, and the Obama administration to get the money restored have failed, and the issue has been put off until after the presidential election next month. If the financing is not restored, the next Unesco general assembly, in two years, can vote to suspend American membership.

via Cutoff of U.S. Money Leads Unesco to Slash Programs – NYTimes.com.

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10 thoughts on “Cutoff of U.S. Money Leads Unesco to Slash Programs – NYTimes.com

  1. aprilrvd says:

    I agree with the U.S. officials who criticized the cutoff at the time of its taking into effect (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/24/world/middleeast/palestinian-bid-to-join-unesco-could-imperil-us-funds.html?ref=world). It is more than clear that the purpose of the UNESCO is not political. Obama didn’t want this to happen either, but legislation bound U.S. to withdraw its funds. From this article I learned 1) how countries that significantly fund UN can affect the decisions made in the organization outside of the debating procedure and 2) how political system of countries can also indirectly affect the nature of thier relationship with UN, e.g. Difficulty of passing a legislation through all branches of U.S. government.

  2. I first heard about this issue through the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who ran a segment on the U.S. cutting aid to UNESCO (You can watch that here: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-15-2012/march-15–2012—pt–3. ). I agree with Susan Rice that the cuts were ill-advised and will have negative consequences for the U.S. Among the programs that UNESCO will have to consider cutting back or eliminating are programs that promote U.S. interest, such as literacy programs for Afghani police officers, and human rights campaigns. So what does the U.S. stand to gain by cutting off funding? I can’t really say.

    • Cory Leonard says:

      Power of the purse is really the only real enforcement a country has over an IO. Glad to know the Daily Show is keeping up. The NYT article explains how the Obama Admin was taken by surprise on this issue–a tactic usually reserved for use by Repubs.

  3. I personally had no idea about the law that would cutoff US funding from any international organization that recognized Palestine as a member, and at first I thought the cutoff of US money was due to economic conditions. But this instance is another display of the power the US has over the UN. Without US funds, there is not a “single program that was not affected” by the dramatic cuts that had to be made. Some argue that Palestine is able to wield considerable influence by forcing the US from funding, and thus losing much of their influence due to power of the purse. Also, many of the aims of UNESCO, from educating women and girls and democratizing nations, are part of the interests of the US globally. But really, power of the purse, especially for the US, is one of the main ways a nation can help control the outcome of an international organization. Do I think the cutoff is a bit extreme? Yes. But I think the US is justified, and almost expected to have followed through. And, if anything, this move caused a lot of talk, more than if the US had simply given a statement in response to Palestine’s membership.

    On a slight tangent, I know UNESCO and UNICEF have different aims, but I thought of this article at the forum with Todd Buchholz today when he said that free trade does more to lift people out of poverty than UNICEF can do (http://wraltechwire.com/business/tech_wire/news/blogpost/10896206/). Would it be feasible for the US to still contribute to the issues UNESCO is dealing with by encouraging free trade, rather than giving a check to the general budget? Or is the main point of the conflict the membership of Palestine?

  4. Sara Gomez says:

    I agree with the comment above, at first I thought the cutoff was because of economic conditions. There are two aspects that caught my attention, one of them is how much the cutoff could affect UNESCO. It is interesting the amount that United States provides in funds to UNESCO. I think it would be good for the UNESCO to not depend on United States contributions since all of their programs are cut proportionally with the cutoff. The other interesting aspect is that if the financing is not restored, the UNESCO general assembly can vote to suspend American membership in two years. The second aspect could probably have a higher impact in the UNESCO itself, specially since that would mean a cutoff of spending for a longer period of time until relations with United States are restored. Currently, Obama is seeking to surpass US lab that bans funding for any UN agency that admits palestine, this type of actions send a message that contradicts their actions. It would necessary for US to either resume the relationship with UNESCO or to decide consistently to not support Palestine.

    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-wants-restore-us-funding-unesco-after-it-admitted-palestine

  5. This is a really unfortunate example of how seemingly separate areas of international relations can still interact. I disagree with the law because it hurts programs that desperately need the money. However, the article sounds like this law was discovered afterwards. In reality the US made it clear that funding would be pulled if Palestine were admitted. The other countries in UNESCO attempted to call the US’s bluff and it had drastic consequences.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/31/unesco-backs-palestinian-membership

  6. ctrmathias says:

    UNESCO does a lot of good in the world. It is such an awful thing to see that the United State’s refusal to work with Palestine will hurt so many people around the world. Everything in international relations is interconnected.
    Right now, the United States is trying hard to promote stability in the Middle East. That is never going to happen if we can’t accept Palestine as an actual country. Additionally, this cut off aid will destroy many education programmes in the Middle East developed by UNESCO. The number of UNESCO schools in Kuwait, which are incredibly important for promoting future stability in Middle Eastern countries, is 48. Without this funding, I question how they will stay open.
    Here is an article about the Kuwaiti UNESCO schools: http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2268708&Language=en

  7. Education is what we need on a national scale. We as students must agree on the importance of gaining knowledge. It is what build communities and keeps economies thriving. The UNESCO is the way that we are going to be able to do it. It is a good investment. Here is here home website http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/introducing-unesco/
    There has been a lot of good done across he world by this organization. For what can be read, it seems as through they are accomplishing their mission statement.
    “UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.”
    This is what the world needs.

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