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At the end of 2011, an interesting development occurred that had significant ramifications for American interests: UNESCO admitted the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a member.

Two laws passed in the 1990s, Public Law 101-246 enacted in 1990, and Public Law 103-236 in 1994, authorized the defunding of any U.N. agency admitting the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a member.

Since the U.S. was obligated under these laws, critics have chimed in indicating no harm would come to U.S. interests as a result.

One such critic, Wall Street Journal columnist L. Gordon Crovitz, wrote a piece in November 2011 titled “Good Riddance to a Repeat U.N. Offender” in which he said, “…taxpayers will save $80 million a year defunding an agency long focused more on politics than on its mission….UNESCO is a reliable reminder that there is little accountability for U.N. actions or inactions. We can be amused by the antics of an agency like UNESCO that has no serious duties…”

I would strongly disagree with Mr. Crovitz’s assessment that UNESCO “…has no serious duties…”  As one looks further in to the work of the agency, one finds this columnist’s comments are without merit. UNESCO: SERVING U.S  INTERESTS

UNESCO serves to advance American interests abroad by promoting democratic values. It has specifically assisted in helping to maintain the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring, promoted peace and nation-building in South Sudan, and supported democratic reforms in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. contributions to UNESCO account for 22% of its budget, so it is obvious why funding is so vital.

U.S. citizens expect to receive a return on their tax money. Due to the work of UNESCO, a Pacific early warning system for tsunamis alerted West Coast residents following the earthquake in Japan last March.

U.S. business benefits through the work of this U.N. agency as well. High-tech companies like Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft have had their products made available in emerging markets through the work of UNESCO. The benefits received in return are enormous: As a result, U.S. jobs are retained and created. THE U.S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. SPEAKS OUT

The Obama Administration has certainly taken notice of these developments.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice testified recently before the House Appropriations’ subcommittee responsible for foreign operations.

Ms. Rice, asked specifically about the administration’s fiscal year 2013 request for $79 million for UNESCO, characterized the agency as “essentially an anti-extremist organization” that performs “essential work.”

The two U.S. laws from the 1990s are outdated, she said. U.S. credibility is on the line and we have certain commitments to honor; allowing the defunding of UNESCO runs counter to our interests, the U.N. ambassador added.

One of the most vocal critics on Capitol Hill with regard to the work of the U.N., Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was naturally quite adamant in her defense of these laws. She remained steadfast that they must remain intact. GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS OF DEFUNDING

 U.S. law has a global reach; actions taken here have a tremendous effect around the world.  Whether it is trying to achieve an equal education for all, garnering support for sustainable development, or hoping for people to gain a greater understanding of one another through intercultural dialogue, UNESCO touches many corners of the globe.

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals are extremely important, and UNESCO is one of the major players through its literacy programs in the developing world. Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights explicitly states the right to an education. UNESCO’s own initiative, Education for All, strives to meet the second MDG of universal primary education by 2015. This program, already saddled with budgetary shortfalls, will face continued pressure going forward because of defunding.

The “domino effect” of Palestinian Authority (PA) membership in UNESCO has far-reaching consequences to a number of other crucial U.N. agencies that could suffer the same fate if they apply and are admitted. WHERE DOES UNESCO GO FROM HERE?

UNESCO’s director general, Irena Bokova, in a letter to the Washington Post last October wrote that her agency “…supports many causes in line with U.S. security interests.” Moreover, Ms. Bokova said, her agency protects “…freedom of expression…” as it “…stands up for every journalist attacked or killed across the world.” In addition, the work of UNESCO is instrumental helping to “…target the causes of violent of extremism by training teachers in human rights…”

Does the U.S. allow the World Health Organization (WHO) to be defunded, which would prevent this agency from doing its critical work in the area of global health?

Or defund the International Atomic Energy Agency and its work on nuclear non-proliferation?

One would hope that two laws passed over twenty (20) years ago could be amended to reflect the present circumstances in which we live.


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