Friday, November 02, 2007

The United States Owes Millions to UNESCO

UNESCO has the responsibility of leading the United Nations system efforts in education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture and communication and information. Its mission of building the defenses of peace in the minds of men remains critically important, and requires ever more diligent and extensive efforts. The 193 member nations of the organization each year add more programs and responsibilities to the organization. Yet its resources are very limited.

UNESCO's budget is a complex affair. There are assessed dues for the member states, but there are also voluntary contributions. In addition, many of the centers, university chairs, and other entities attached to UNESCO receive contributions outside of UNESCO's budget. Then or course, UNESCO operates with many partners who bring their own resources to the joint efforts. Still, the U.S. representatives to UNESCO have been concerned that its resources do not stretch to enable UNESCO to do everything it is asked to do well.

The UNESCO Secretariat presented a report to the recent meeting of the General Conference titled "COLLECTION OF MEMBER STATES’ CONTRIBUTIONS". It notes that as at 30 June 2007 the United States which was assessed $66.1 million for 2007 (22 percent of the total assessed dues due to the size of our economy as compared to that of the rest of the world) was US$87.36 million in arrears.

At the end of May, according to the United Nations Association of the USA:
On May 25th, President Bush signed a $120 billion emergency supplemental spending bill for the current fiscal year that includes funding for war costs, veterans care, hurricane relief, and agricultural assistance, as well as $283 million for assessed contributions to UN peacekeeping. In addition, the bill (H.R. 2206; Public Law 110-28) provides $50 million for the budgetary account that funds US membership dues to international organizations, including the United Nations.
In other words, the government was not proposing to pay up its back dues to UNESCO in the near future. Until the Congress passes appropriations legislation for this fiscal year (which began October 10, the United States is limited to making payments on a month by month basis. As you can imagine, the shortfall is causing significant administrative problems for the Secretariat.

The problem of the arrears in assessments to UNESCO is of course a small part of a bigger problem of debt to the United Nations system as a whole. According to the Global Policy Forum:
The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $20 billion each year, or about $3 for each of the world's inhabitants. This is a very small sum compared to most government budgets and it is just a tiny fraction of the world's military spending. Yet for nearly two decades, the UN has faced a financial difficulties and it has been forced to cut back on important programs in all areas. Many member states have not paid their full dues and have cut their donations to the UN's voluntary funds. As of March 31, 2007, members' arrears to the Regular Budget topped $1,355 million, of which the United States alone owed $785 million (58% of the regular budget arrears).
If you agree that the United States should pay its dues to UNESCO for education, science, culture and communications and the promotion of peace, and indeed that we should pay up our back dues to the United Nations system, tell your Congressmen and Senators!

John Daly

1 comment:

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