The United States will be required by law to withdraw all funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) if it votes, as expected, to approve the Palestinian Authority’s full membership in the agency.
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, has applied for U.N. recognition by the Security Council, and is moving ahead with applications to join individual U.N. agencies as the P.A. awaits the Council’s vote. The vote on UNESCO membership is set for Monday.
If successful, the bid would force the Obama administration to cut funding to the agency.
Public Law 101-246, passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1990, states that “no funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”
Public Law 103-236 Title IV, passed in 1994, prohibits“voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”
UNESCO receives 22 percent of its operating budget from the United States, about $80 million a year, according to CNS News. Americans for UNESCO co-chairs Esther Coopersmith and Richard Arndt wrote in a letter to supporters earlier this month about the possible U.S. funding cutoff: “Senior budget officers at UNESCO, analyzing the consequences, foresee immediate slashes in program activity, layoffs in personnel beginning in January, and other credible threats, including [to] UNESCO’s pension system.”
During the 1980s, the U.S. and Britain withdrew from UNESCO, accusing the agency of mismanagement and an anti-Western political agenda. Britain returned in 1997 and President George W. Bush restored the U.S. relationship in 2002, citing wide-ranging reforms.
A cutoff of American funding for UNESCO over the Palestinian issue would no doubt please FloridaCongresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been an outspoken critic of the U.N. She chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has approved a bill that would give America discretion over how, or even whether, it pays for U.N. activities. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax in September, she, Lehtinen, pointed out that American taxpayers last year gave $7.7 billion to the United Nations, accounting for 22 percent of its operating budget and 27 percent of its peacekeeping operations. “What are we getting in return? We’re getting an agency that votes against us at every opportunity,” she said. “I say let’s change this around. If we don’t like the Human Rights Council, then let’s not fund it. We should pick and choose cafeteria style which groups we want to help.”