Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature could lose international partnerships

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature runs the risk of weakening connections with its international partners if the United States does not pay its membership fees to the greater organization by 2013, officials say.

The U.S. Commission on UNESCO suspended its funding to the agency by law last October, when membership countries voted to admit Palestine into the international organization. The suspension comes at a time when peace efforts between Israel, a member of UNESCO, and Palestine remain unresolved.

Without the U.S.’s $60 million in contributions for the year, UNESCO loses one-fifth of its annual budget, which in turn could cause UNESCO-funded programs in the U.S. — like its World Heritage Sites and educational programs —to suffer, and for non-funded designations like the City of Literature to see strained international partnerships.

Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature executive director Jeanette Pilak said this is not the first time the U.S. has refused to pay its membership to UNESCO — the U.S. pulled out of UNESCO in 1984 and rejoined in 2002 — but with Iowa City being brought into the Creative Cities Network in 2008, this is the first time it could have a direct effect locally.

“We are working with all of our Creative Cities Network colleagues to understand what the issues are and to look at what the long-term effect is to the (network) should the U.S. not continue to pay to be a member,” she said. “But that’s a long-term plan.”

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