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Tue 1 Nov 2011 08:06 AM

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UN agency flouts US over Palestine membership

US to cut $7m funding to United Nation’s cultural agency after Palestine decision

UN agency flouts US over Palestine membership
UNESCO will lose around $70m in funding from the US

The
United Nations' cultural agency granted the Palestinians full membership on
Monday, a step forward in their long-running efforts to achieve recognition
before the world as an independent state.

The
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) became
the first UN agency to welcome the Palestinians as a full member since
President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on
Sept 23.

A huge
cheer erupted in UNESCO's General Assembly after the vote, which marks a
symbolic victory for Palestinians in the complex diplomacy that surrounds their
collective status and relations with foreign powers.

"Today's
victory at UNESCO is the beginning of a road that is difficult, but will lead
to the freedom of our land and people from occupation," Palestinian
Foreign Minister Riad Malki said. "Palestine has the right to a place on
the map."

Israel
called the vote a "tragedy" and the decision damaged relations
between UNESCO and the United States, an ally of Israel that provides about 22
percent of the body's funding, or some $70m.

Legislation
stipulates that the US can cut off funding to any United Nations agency that accepts
Palestinians as a member.

The
White House said the vote was "premature" and would not aid peace and
the US ambassador to the United Nations said UNESCO would suffer.

"Today's
vote to grant Palestinian membership in UNESCO is no substitute for direct
negotiations, but it is deeply damaging to UNESCO," said Ambassador Susan
Rice.

UNESCO
director-general Irina Bokova, who previously pleaded for Washington not to
withdraw support, told delegates funding may be jeopardised.

"I
believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not
suffer unduly... We need each and every member of this organisation to be fully
engaged," she added.

The
Palestinians got backing from two thirds of UNESCO's members to become its
195th member. Of 173 countries that voted from a possible 185, 107 voted in
favour, 14 voted against, 52 abstained and 12 were absent. Abstentions did not
count toward the final tally.

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The
Palestinians went to UNESCO after making a bid for recognition of the
over-arching United Nations system in September before the UN Security Council,
which has moved the issue to a committee where it is likely to run into a veto
from the United States.

"This
vote is not directed against anyone, but represents support for freedom and
justice," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement to the
official news agency WAFA.

"This
vote is for the sake of peace and represents international consensus on support
for the legitimate Palestinian national rights of our people, the foremost of
which is the establishment of its independent state."

But the
breakdown of the vote reflected deep divergences in international views on
Palestinian statehood.

The
United States, Canada, Germany and Holland voted against Palestinian
membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in
favour. Britain and Italy abstained.

For the
European Union, which has stumbled in recent efforts to develop a common
foreign policy, the UNESCO vote highlighted persistent rifts with some member
states voting for and some against Palestinian membership.

Austrian
UNESCO ambassador Ursula Plassnik, whose country voted in favour, said she
regretted that the EU had failed to arrive at a common position on Palestinian
membership.

France,
which previously abstained from a vote on the subject of Palestinian membership
in UNESCO, broke with precedent to vote in favour on Monday.

"Since
it has been raised today, we must assume our responsibilities and respond to
the substance of the issue ... On the substance, France says "yes"-
Palestine has the right to become a member of UNESCO," said Hubert de Canson,
France's representative at UNESCO.

Israel
has said the Palestinian bid would amount to politicisation of UNESCO that
would undermine its ability to carry out its mandate. It said on Monday it
would reconsider its cooperation with the agency.

"We
regret that the organisation of science has opted to adopt a resolution which
is a resolution of science fiction," said Nimrod Barkan, Israel's
ambassador to UNESCO, who called the move a tragedy for the agency. "There
is no Palestinian state and therefore one should not have been admitted
today."

The
Israeli foreign ministry said the vote placed unnecessary obstacles on the road
to renewing negotiations.

"This
is a unilateral Palestinian manoeuver which will bring no change on the ground
but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement," it said in a
statement.

Abu Charlie 8 years ago

No Nation, especially the USA should not retain the right to fund 70% of any United Nations Agency that represents the people of the world. I'd rather the member countries were obliged to equally fund UNESCO's costs. No funding should mean No seat on the Agency. No excuses, a member seat is a privilege, not a right.
The withholding of such a privilege should fall to all members not a single nation who thinks they have that power because they print money and fund the agency.
That's what "grinds my gears", back to you in the studio bob

procan 8 years ago

You can be sure Canada will be next to pull her 10 million out also. As you know, Israel is a Canadian ally.

jake 8 years ago

Hey Procan, that's not a problem. Palestine has many allies here in the persian gulf and throughout the oil heavy muslim world and 80 million, yeah even 200 million $ are petty cash for them.

I am sure someone will chip in, or will they?

keenObzerver 8 years ago

Congratulations to Palestine!
This symbolic victory will pave the way to full membership.
@procan, u mean Canada is an Israeli ally.

Israel was created through a UN vote, when countries were mostly strongarmed or emotionally blackmailed to vote in favor of creating israel on palestinian lands, creating a country with less than 10% jewish citizens and the rest palestinian christians and muslims. After Israel was voted into creation it opened the floodgates to millions of east european/russian immigrants, and displacing millions of refugees from their homes.

Palestine is now following the UN route to independence.

Personnaly i dont beleive in the 2 state solution. Israel should abolish its racist apartheid policies, give equal rights to palestinians, allow the refugees to return to their original homes, and have free and fair elections under UN supervision, then everybody could live together in peace.

procan 8 years ago

@keenObzerver, Canada is an Israeli ally " yes". I also do not believe in a two-state solution, I much prefer winner take all. Leave the peace to the winner.

Telcoguy 8 years ago

One of the main goals of UNESCO is to protect places of special interest for mankind. Following your policy those places in poor countries (the most likely to be stingy) would not be protected, same with FAO and UNHCR, if you kick out the countries out you are killing the (little) protection the citizens may get.
UN was not conceived as a club, but as an acknowledgment that you need to deal with entities you may not always like, it was more of a meeting point than anything else, there are no rules to join beside being sponsored into (my country was not admitted for a long time)
I think letting the Palestinians in is the right move, the US is forced by their own laws to pull out (as they did under Reagan for some 12 years if I remember right) That did not stop UNESCO from working.
Funnily under its own laws (Symington Amendment) the US should stop all aid to Israel. It seems some laws are enforced more carefully than others... that rings a bell.

procan 8 years ago

I think North Americans are increasingly becoming alienated from much of the Eastern world .Could this be the right time move UN headquarters out of New York to say China or India to reflect the new world order, Fortress North America may no longer share some or many of the same values and ideals ? Perhaps the FTA dominant position is past its time.

Alain Lefèvre 8 years ago

Infinite thank you to Palestine for exposing to the whole world the most hypocritical countries that are good at preaching without believing a word about human rights and justice for the week and meek.

US Expat123 8 years ago

@ PROCAN: New World Order?!

Let me put this into perspective for you, not to gloat, but so you have a better understanding of reality:

GDP by Nation
$14.5T – US
$14.4T – the next 3 largest economies combined (China, Japan Germany)
$1.6T – India

Global 500 Businesses by Nation
133 – US, number of companies in the Global 500
129 – the next 2 nations combined (Japan, China)
2 – India

Military Spending by Nation
$700B – US
$600B – the next top 20 nations combined

Technological Advancements
No comparison, period.

Foreign Aid Given by Nation
$30B – US, more than double the next two top giving nations COMBINED. China and India give less than $100M annually.

UN Funding by Nation
25% - US % of funding
3% - China & India combined % of funding

My point is simple, there is no “New World Order” and there won’t be in our lifetime. As for moving the UN out of the US to the east… just look at the above funding %, enough said. Another point, the rapid development in the east can be easily

londoner 8 years ago

2 Countries not represented in UN.
1. Palestine (blocked by US)
2. Taiwan (blocked by China)
It's about time the rest of the world got on their case.