Saturday, December 17, 2011

From the news of October 29, 1958

I quote from the New York Times:
Pope John XXIII, while an official observer of the Holy See at the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization, said in a 1952 sermon in Paris that Roman Catholics throughout the world should participate in the work of "this promising institution."

Monday, December 05, 2011

Contribute to UNESCO in this crisis

© UNESCO/Akash

The United States Government is withholding its contributions to UNESCO as the result of a decades old provision of the law. That means about one-quarter of the funding for the 1012-2013 project that was just approved will not be available. 

UNESCO's mission is to promote a new humanism in the defense of peace. It seeks to promote international understanding. Its tools are directed towards education, the promotion of science, culture and communications.

UNESCO has created a new site to accept public donations in this financial crisis. 

Donations can be made online at:

Sunday, December 04, 2011

More selected press coverage / U.S. Withholding funds

I previously posted links to several articles and opinion pieces (here and here) on the vote to admit UNESCO to membership in UNESCO and the consequent legal requirement to withhold U.S. contributions to the Organization. Here are some more:

Editorial: Repeal or Revise the anti-Palestine Legislation

The law which now requires U.S. funds to be withheld from UNESCO should be repealed or revised because it is outdated, ineffective, unnecessary, counterproductive, unclear, and potentially unenforceable. Its application to UNESCO has diminished U.S. diplomatic effectiveness, will in fact hurt the Israeli interests it was designed to protect, and -- most important -- will hurt a lot of innocent people. Readers are encouraged to contact their representatives in Congress and call for the law's repeal or revision.

The General Conference of UNESCO voted to invite Palestine to become a member state of the Organization on October 31, 2011. The actual membership is to take effect when Palestine submits its accession papers.

As the members of the General Conference had been warned, that action triggered two parts of U.S. law (US Code - Title 22: Foreign Relations and Intercourse / 22 USC 287 - Sec. 287e. Authorization of appropriations; payment of expenses):

  • Pub. L. 101-246, title IV, Sec. 414, Feb. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 70, provided that: "(a) Prohibition. - No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states. "(b) Transfer or Reprogramming. - Funds subject to the prohibition contained in subsection (a) which would be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof (but for that prohibition) are authorized to remain available until expended and may be reprogrammed or transferred to any other account of the Department of State or the Agency for International Development to carry out the general purposes for which such funds were authorized." 
  • Pub. L. 103-236, title IV, Sec. 410, Apr. 30, 1994, 108 Stat. 454, provided that: "The United States shall not make any voluntary or assessed contribution - "(1) to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, or "(2) to the United Nations, if the United Nations grants full membership as a state in the United Nations to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, during any period in which such membership is effective."
The first provision is found in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991 and the second in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1994 and 1995. Those are unusual in that they do not provide the President the ability to wave the provisions if he determines doing so would be in the national interest.

The U.S. Government has announced that it is consequently withholding contributions to UNESCO. Both assessed contributions and voluntary contributions are being withheld. The United States remains a member state of UNESCO, and has in fact been newly elected to its Executive Board. If the United States continues to withhold all contributions until the next meeting of the UNESCO General Conference, it will not be allowed to vote in that conference.

Here are some reasons that the law should be revised or repealed.

The legislation is outdated: Since these provisions became law, the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization has changed, the Palestine National Authority has come into being, the Oslo accords and the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement have been signed, and Palestine is reported to be recognized as a state by 127 UN member states. The United States and the other members of the Quartet are maintaining that a two state solution should be negotiated to settle the Israel-Palestine issues. 

The law is ineffective: It was intended to deny Palestinians membership in UN agencies until or unless a peace settlement was reached with Israel. UNESCO's General Conference voted membership for Palestine in full knowledge of the law. Several other UN agencies have constitutions that grant automatic membership on request from any national already a member of any UN agency. It seems likely that other UN agencies would also elect Palestine to membership if they received such a formal request.

The law is unnecessary: The Congress has the power of the purse and can vote to withhold funding from any UN agency as part of the annual appropriations legislation. Even without this law Congress has the power both to warn UN agencies of the consequences of admitting specific organizations or states to membership and withholding funds from agencies that do so in spite of the warnings. When the Palestinian membership was coming to the General Conference, letters were in fact sent from the House of Representatives to UNESCO informing the Secretariat and permanent representatives of member states to UNESCO that key committees would oppose funding UNESCO if it admitted Palestine. 

The law is counterproductiveAs Representative Keith Ellison has pointed out, UNESCO activities "include core U.S. interests like literacy education for the Afghan National Police, supporting a free press in countries like Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt, and promoting Holocaust education in the Middle East." Some of these activities will be stopped specifically because already promised voluntary contributions for their support must now be withheld. (See also "Cutting Off Unesco, U.S. May Endanger Programs in Iraq and Afghanistan")

The meaning of the law is unclear: Does the United States withhold contributions forever from UNESCO now that it has voted to accept Palestine as a member state? Does the United States continue to withhold funding from UNESCO even if a peace treaty is successfully concluded and Palestine is successful in meeting all of the internationally recognized standards of statehood. If existing member states of UN agencies for some reason no longer meet all of those standards but are not ejected from membership, must the United States withhold funding from those agencies.

The law may not be enforceable. The Congress ratified the accession document to UNESCO which I am told has the force of a treaty. In joining UNESCO, the United States agreed to abide by its Constitution (which was largely an American creation) and that Constitution requires member states to pay their assessed contributions; the obligation to pay overdue contributions does not go away even if a member state withdraws from the Organization. The United States is a signatory to other UNESCO Conventions which have been ratified by the Congress, such as the World Heritage Convention which also requires funding from member states. Thus, if the U.S. Government is taken to court it may have to stop withholding assessed contributions in spite of the law cited above. I have been informed that those concerns actually resulted in the United States not withholding contributions from UNESCO when it was proposed to do so during the 1970s.

Final Comments: As the law applies to UNESCO

The United States Government is forced by this law to act like the kid who takes his ball home when he is not elected captain of the football team. Diplomats of other countries see this "poison pill" of a law as a bullying tactic by the United States. They not only see it as anti-democratic but as politicizing UNESCO debates that should not be politicized. As a result, the influence of U.S. diplomats in UNESCO governance and other international forums is weakened.

Perhaps surprisingly, while the law was intended to protect Israel, Israel may suffer from its application. The United States has been the most important defender of Israel's interests in UNESCO as well as in other UN venues. U.S. influence is greater as the respect accorded to our diplomats and their tactics is greater. As the threat of withdrawing funding is disliked so our influence is decreased and thus our influence in protecting Israeli interests from unfair attacks by other member states.

In my mind, the most important reason for restoring funding to UNESCO is that if we do not do so, innocent people will suffer. Kids who would have gotten to school because of UNESCO's influence will remain uneducated. People who could have been saved from the threat of flood or tsunami by UNESCO programs will not be saved because UNESCO didn't have the resources we had promised. Reporters who might have been saved from coercive governments by the influence of UNESCO in favor of freedom of the press and freedom of speech will lose some of that protection; the public will lose information that those reporters could have provided. People who might have found work in UNESCO promoted cultural industries will lose that opportunity. People who might have been saved from the impact of unethical behavior by scientists will not receive the protection that might have been offered by the UNESCO ethics programs. People who might have been better served by their governments because of the influence of UNESCO's Management of Social Transitions (MOST) program will lose that opportunity. 

Indeed, those of us who enjoy the Olympics may enjoy them a little less as UNESCO has less money to support the international convention against doping in sport. Those of us who enjoy visiting museums may enjoy them a little less as UNESCO has less money to support conventions to protect museum-quality artifacts and to support museum quality. Those of us who enjoy visiting sites such as the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Majal, or the rose red city at the end of time (Petra, Jordan) may enjoy them less as UNESCO has fewer resources to advocate for their preservation and their appropriate presentation to visitors.


I will refrain from recommending to the Congress and the State Department how to deal with these laws. Those bodies are well able to deal with the specific issues of legislative reform.

For the readers of this blog, I recommend that you contact your Representative and your Senators and ask that they work to restore U.S. funding to UNESCO and that they reform the law to deal with the problems raised in the paragraphs above.

Here is the message I sent to my Representative in the House and to my Senators:

Recently the General Conference of UNESCO voted to offer membership in the Organization to Palestine. In response to the possibility of Palestine joining the Organization, the purpose of which is to build the defenses of peace in the minds of men, the United States is withholding all contributions to UNESCO, apparently permanently. This is due to clauses in the Foreign Assistance Authorization Acts for Fiscal 1990 and 1991, 1994-1995. 
That action has cost the United States soft power in the United Nations system. It has created a financial crisis in UNESCO. It is threatening programs in Iraq and Afghanistan funded by U.S. voluntary contributions and implemented by UNESCO, programs important to our interests in those countries. In two years, that action will cost the United States its votes in the next General Conference. In the long run it will have a negative impact on programs promoting education, science, the preservation of cultural heritage, and freedom of the press. 
Perhaps even worse, if Palestine follows through on announced plans and obtains membership in other UN organizations, the old clause in the Authorization will require the United States to withhold funding from such agencies as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Telecommunications Union, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization. 
Ideally the clause should be repealed and decisions on the funding of these agencies made in the normal appropriations process. At a minimum, the clause should be amended to allow the President to waive the requirement to withhold funding when he determines that action is to the overall foreign policy advantage of the United States.
John Daly
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Press Covers U.S. Withholding UNESCO Funds

 The General Conference of UNESCO last month voted by a two-thirds majority to admit Palestine as a member state. The United States opposed the admission primarily on the basis that it would be counterproductive to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. U.S. laws passed two decades ago required that the United States Government withhold its funding of any UN agency that admitted Palestine as a member state. Consequently, that funding which currently accounts for 22 percent of UNESCO's regular budget and several million dollars of voluntary contributions is being withheld. This is causing a financial crisis in the UNESCO Secretariat.

Here are links to a selection of articles in the media that deal with the situation:

Friday, December 02, 2011

UNESCO Creative Cities Meet

The Indian Market at Santa Fe, New Mexico

Between November 16 and 18, representatives of cities in UNESCO's worldwide Creative Cities Network met in Seoul.

Among those attending were representatives from U.S. Creative Cities of Iowa City and Santa Fe. Representatives from Paducah, which is currently applying to be a UNESCO Creative City, also attended.

Jeanette Pilak
One of the major topics of concern during the meeting in Seoul related to UNESCO's loss of funding and subsequent effect on the Creative Cities network.

Jeanette Pilak sent in these excellent notes from the meeting, you can also read a more official (but slightly less interesting) version here.

UNESCO Continues to Look at Ramifications of U.S. Funding Loss

UNESCO continues to deal with the recent loss of U.S. funding.

Science Magazine recently did a piece describing how the loss of US dollars may effect programs in UNESCO's science sector, which you can read here.
The AP also recently did a piece describing how the loss of U.S. funding may effect UNESCO programs in education, social sciences, and the developing world. You can read that one here.

More on the National Commission Meeting

This past Monday 11/28 about 85 members of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and friends of the Commission met for our annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Participants met for about 5 hours with a few breaks and engaged in a lively discussion about a range of topics related to UNESCO and U.S. engagement with UNESCO.

The defunding issue was of course a hot topic and meeting participants shared their views about the current situation, as well as ideas about the future of U.S. activity with UNESCO.

The State Department offers apologies for the quality of the picture/sound, but you can actually watch a video recording from most of Monday's meeting here. You can also see photos from our meeting here.

Thank you very much again to everybody who participated on Monday (either remotely or in person), for those who traveled in from far away, and our hosts at George Washington University.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Gaza: UNESCO Protecting education in the border areas

UNESCO is committed along with young people and teachers to keep schools opened in the border areas.

Traditional knowledge of the jaguar shamans of Yuruparí (Colombia)

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage meeting in Bali inscribed on 27 November 2011 the Traditional knowledge of the jaguar shamans of Yurupari (Colombia) on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The jaguar shamans of Yuruparí share the common heritage of the many ethnic groups living along the Pirá Paraná River in southeastern Colombia. Using traditional knowledge and ritual practices, the shamans heal, prevent sickness and revitalize nature. During the Hee Biki ritual, male children learn the traditional guidelines for these practices as a part of their passage into adulthood.

It is believed that shamans inherited their traditional knowledge from the all-powerful, mythical Yuruparí, an anaconda who lived as a human and is embodied in sacred trumpets.

More information on: and

To know more about Intangible Heritage visit:

Extended version of this video on:

Video copyright: © 2010 ACAIPI, Fundación Gaia Amazonas. 4 Direcciones Audiovisual. National Geographic T.V.

EFA Crowdsourcing Challenge

UNESCO has teamed up with Nokia and the Pearson Foundation to launch an Education for All (EFA) Crowdsourcing Challenge!
This contest asks participants to submit their best ides about how mobile communication can help achieve EFA goals.
The challenge goes until May of next year - but if you're interested or know anyone else who might be, offer your great idea. Your idea could earn you a cool new phone, if not the opportunity to improve educational access for those who need it.
For more details go here!

Design Competition: The Slave Trade

More details have been announced about the UNESCO coordinated competition to design a permanent memorial to honor the victims of the transatlantic slave trade at the United Nations in New York.
This competition involves two phases. First, 16 semi-finalists will be chosen. From these 7 will be chosen for interviews by an international jury, which will make the final decision about the competition winner.
The deadline for this competition is Monday 12/19. If you know of any American artists/designers who would be interested in competing, please send them here!