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.