UNESCO Shatters International Law — White House Freezes Financing of the ‘Cultural’ Agency of the United Nations

Text of report by the website of government-owned Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 2 November

Article by Yevgeniy Shestakov: "UNESCO Shatters International Law — White House Freezes Financing of the ‘Cultural’ Agency of the United Nations"

Washington has frozen the transfer of a routine November tranche of $60 million to UNESCO.

This step comes in response to the decision of the general assembly of this United Nations organization to admit the state of Palestine, which does not exist de jure, as a full-fledged UNESCO member. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also expressed his desire to review the role of his country in UNESCO. According to the minister, Canada "is not pleased by the decision made with respect to Palestine."

The actions of UNESCO have once again demonstrated the great extent to which international law, which regulates relations within the world community, has grown "imbalanced."

The UNESCO leadership has displayed unprecedented daring in not yielding to pressure coming from Washington. The White House warned beforehand that it could not continue financing the organization, citing a bill adopted earlier by the Congress. This document prohibits the transfer of funds to UN organizations that have unilaterally recognized Palestine as an independent state. The amounts in question comprise approximately 22 percent of the UNESCO budget. Nevertheless, UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova welcomed the admission of "independent Palestine" as a member. The autonomy previously held the modest status of observer. At the same time, the general director acknowledged that the American delegation’s position "threatens the stability of the organization’s budget."

The voting to admit Palestine as a UNESCO member has divided Europe. While France, Norway, Luxembourg, Spain, and Greece supported the Palestinians, Germany and the Czech Republic were opposed. Great Britain abstained in the voting. Russia welcomed the recognition of Palestine as a full-fledged member of UNESCO — but at the same time confirmed that this step does not negate further negotiations between the autonomy and Israel on terms for the establishment of an independent state.

The decision adopted in the General Assembly at the initiative of the UNESCO leadership is more than just a painful slap in the face for the American Government. We are talking about a far more significant and dangerous phenomenon – movement towards chaos in international relations at the highest level. The "star player," the United Nations organization responsible for cultural matters, has independently made a decision, entirely ambiguous from the political point of view, which has far-reaching consequences, including for global security. UNESCO has established a dangerous precedent, where an autonomy has obtained the status of independent state, bypassing the standard procedures for recognition of new member countries in the UN General Assembly and Security Council. Regardless of whatever geopolitical considerations may have dictated this action, it significantly diminishes the future significance of the Security Council as the only structure endowed with the right to recognize newly created states.

UNESCO now has its own "Arab Spring," which is comparable in its consequences to a mostsevere fracture of international relations. Having accepted the phantom state into its ranks, UNESCO has questioned the role and influence of the UN Security Council as a key structure in the system of international relations. This is a blow not only to United States prestige, but also to the interests of Russia, which is a member of the Security Council. If even a United Nations structure such as UNESCO does not listen to its "founding entity" and could not care less about the UN Security Council position to defer discussion of the question of independence of Palestine, why then should other international organizations heed decisions of the Security Council in the future?

Russia has always supported plans of the Palestinian Autonomy to become independent. But at the same time, Moscow advocates examination of this issue within the framework of existing international procedures which will take into account the interests not only of Palestinians, but of Israel as well. Bypassingscrutiny on the part of the Security Council, the UNESCO decision on Palestine violates these procedures to suit the current political situation. This kind of "audacity," bordering on anarchy, is capable of bringing about a definitive collapse of the entire system of checks and balances still remaining in international relations. With all the consequences ensuing from such a chaotic chain of events.

At the same time, reports have surfaced that the Palestinian National Authority intends to obtain membership in yet another specialized agency of the United Nations – the World Health Organization. "We have already discussed the question of membership with the leadership of this agency," stated Palestinian Health Minister Fatkhi Abu Mogli.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta File Information

The United States withdrew from UNESCO in 1984, justifying this decision by virtue of its disagreement with the organization’s methods of financial management. It was only in 2003 that the United States returned to UNESCO. In 1985 Great Britain and Singapore withdrew from UNESCO. South Africa was not represented in UNESCO from 1985 through 2003.

History

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was instituted on 16 November 1945. Its staff headquarters is located in Paris, while its offices and departments are located in various countries of the world. The main objective of UNESCO is to promote the consolidation of peace and security through expanded cooperation among peoples in the sphere of education, science, and culture. Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova holds the position of UNESCO general director. She was elected to this post in 2009.

Palestine is the 195th state to be accepted into UNESCO. The listing of this agency’s members differs slightly from that of UN member states, which numbers 193 countries. For example, Niue and the Cook Islands are not members of the United Nations, but they enjoy free association with New Zealand and are UNESCO members. On the other hand, Lichtenstein, a United Nations member, does not officially belong to UNESCO. Moreover, as of today this organization also includes eight associate members – dependent territories in various parts of the world.

Budget

UNESCO operates on a two-year budget which is approved by a general conference. The budget is formed from dues paid by member countries. The scale of payments is structured in accordance with the same principles that apply to the United Nations. Thus, those member states that make the largest contributions to the UN pay the largest amounts to UNESCO as well. The negligible differences in composition of the UN and UNESCO membership are, of course, also taken into account.

The main criterion used in structuring the scale of UN member dues is a country’s financial solvency. This is determined taking into account the fraction of gross national product attributable to such dues, adjusted by the aggregate of a number of factors, including the per capita income of a given country.

The main donor states are the United States (22 percent), Japan (12.531 percent), Germany (8.019 percent), Great Britain (6.605 percent), and France (6.124 percent).

The UNESCO budget for 2010-2011 amounted to $653 million. The budget for 2012-2013 is planned to total the same amount. In addition, UNESCO has non-budget funds at its disposal. These are received from other institutions in the UN systemand international organizations and foundations. They also come in the form of voluntary contributions from donor states, non-government structures, and even private investors.

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 2 Nov 11

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