Palestinian full membership in UNESCO and the U.S. withdrawal of 22 percent of UNESCO Budget

A contemporary international affair that I find puzzling or do not fully understand is the issue of U.S. withdrawal of funding from the UNESCO. In October 31, 2011, Palestine won full membership in UNESCO, but the move cost the UNESCO one-fifth of its funding through the withdrawal of U.S support. The Palestinian bid for UNESCO (membership), requires approval by two-thirds of the agency’s General Conference, passed by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions. The United States provides UNESCO with more than $80 million a year, covering about 22 percent of its budget.

The UNESCO objective is 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.

The phenomenon in question is important because the primary mandate of UNESCO is to create the condition for dialogue among civilizations; cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. The U.S. withdrawal caused a large rift in ongoing UNESCO activities. The Headquarter and country office have tried to adapt to the sudden budget change by eliminating staff through termination of contract, and even closure of selected country office. The sad story, most of the UNESCO activities are intended for cultural preservation and not related with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The political move of U.S. is speculated on the strong support for Israel and Israel’s disagreement of Palestinian bid for UNESCO membership. This argument deviate from the primary issue that the Palestinian (territory) is arguably one of the richness areas with culture heritage. The conflict between the Israel-Palestinians has caused cultural damage beyond comprehension. The Palestinian full membership in UNESCO should be use as a platform for dialogue between the Israel and Palestinian, and the U.S. should support this dialogue to create stability in the Middle East.


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