UNESCO: Voting For Values

“UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. It is through this dialogue that the world can achieve global visions of sustainable development encompassing observance of human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty”. That’s how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines itself: besides all the natural and cultural beauty that they take under protection, they also involve in some social issues such as human rights and development of societies.

 After not paying their dues for two years, last Friday both the United States and Israel lost their right to vote in UNESCO. The reason behind this payment crisis was that UNESCO made Palestine a full member of the association in 2011. So because of the problematic relations between Israel and Palestine, these two major countries had have been protesting the association by not contributing financially.

This decision of not paying their dues, took the Obama administration by surprise too because it is due to two laws signed in the 90’s by President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton that entails an end of U.S. payments to any United Nations association  that recognizes Palestine as a full member.

For UNESCO this is a big amount of money loss -the 22 percent of their total income-, which has caused reduced-initiatives, frozen-hiring and canceled-programs. Of course, Israel’s contribution represents the 3 percent, which is not that little too. Nevertheless the economical struggles that they would have without these two important countries, UNESCO has not changed its policy or made an exception for Israel and the U.S.

“I believe all of our work to protect human rights and dignity as the basis for lasting peace and sustainable development is shared by the American people […] I will continue to work for the universality of this Organization, for the support of the United States, to the values we share, to the objectives we hold in common, of an effective multilateral order and a more peaceful, more just world.” Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of the Loss of Voting Rights

The main point here is that UNESCO is an association that promotes the basic building blocks of our civilization, issues that affects every society. But it seems that in the case of U.S. and Israel, these countries political affairs are getting ahead the association’s main aims.

So while some voices in the U.S. agree with the non-paying policy by saying that “UNESCO is interfering with the prospects for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”, other voices –including Obama’s– said that UNESCO duties are related to world heritage development, which includes equality for all societies.

By regarding that powerful countries have the huge impact over these kind of socially responsible associations, the words of Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO,  aren’t  surprising :“This is not only about financing. This is about values”.



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