Penniless UNESCO Terminates All Programs

World | November 10, 2011, Thursday // 19:14
Bulgaria: Penniless UNESCO Terminates All Programs UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova speaks during the opening the 36th UNESCO General Conference in Paris, France, 25 October 2011. EPA/BGNES

UN cultural agency UNESCO has been forced to suspend all of its spending program until the end of the year after the United States withdrew its funding, its Bulgarian Director-General Irina Bokova has announced.

Bokova spoke Thursday in an address to UNESCO diplomats whom she told the agency faces a USD 65 M / EUR 47 M funding shortfall and would have to halt all of its activities since the USA cuts its funding because the agency's General Assembly voted to admit as a full-fledged member the Palestinian Authority, which technically has not gained the status of a sovereign state.

"This deficit corresponds to the sum due from the United States for the year 2011. The United States have a habit of paying their contribution at the end of the year for reasons of their own budget caledar. We will not receive this sum. We will therefore have to take radical measures, and we will need to take them now, at this general conference," Bokova said, as cited by international media.

Bokova did state she hopes the year-end review would allow savings in UNESCO programs - which support cultural, educational and scientific projects around the world - of around USD 35 M.

"But this won't be enough to resolve our problem," she warned in a speech to the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference.

Several days ago she announced a plan to start fundraising for UNESCO but its expected contribution seemingly appears to be too small.

"I have suspended the entirety of our undertakings. I have suspended the execution of our program, during our review process, until the end of the year," she explained, promising to review the entire budget.

"These are not decisions of choice, these are decisions of urgency," she said. "I do believe that we can pull through these difficulties, together -- for this, we must act now."

Bokova, who has been in a tough spot after the USA terminated its contribution to the UNESCO budget after Palestine got in earlier this week, announced the fundraising effort last Saturday.

In addition to trying to "compensate" for the withdrawal of the US funding, which is about 20% of UNESCO's total annual budget, or some USD 70 M, Bokova said, adding that "some governments and states are giving positive signals that they would support the organization financially."

Before that Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian Director-General of UNESCO, pleaded with the USA to reinstate funding for the UN agency for education, science and culture, after the Palestinian Authority was granted membership by its General Assembly.

UNESCO has ended up in an international diplomatic crisis after on Monday the majority of its members voted in favor of admitting Palestine as a full-fledged member even though the latter has not been recognized internationally as an independence country.

The admission of Palestine to UNESCO led to harsh reactions by Israel and by the USA, which terminated its annual funding for the world organization based on two laws from 1991 and 1994 that stipulate the cutoff of US money for any organization that might grant full membership to territories that are not internationally recognized as states such as the PA.

Meanwhile, Canada said it was mulling quitting UNESCO because of the controversy with Palestine's accession.

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Tags: canada, unseco, Palestine, US, funding, United Nations, Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, Director-General, Israel, Palestinian Authority, USA, funding
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