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US loses UNESCO voting rights for not paying dues

Published: Friday, Nov. 8 2013 4:30 p.m. MST

America's voice has been silenced on matters like international aid and support by losing its vote with UNESCO after failing to renew financial support.

"The move undermined America’s ability to exercise its influence in numerous countries around the globe through the United Nations agency’s educational and aid programs, according to Western diplomats and international relations experts," the New York Times reported.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, is responsible for designating World Heritage sites, promoting global education and supporting press freedom, among other tasks, Reuters reported.

The U.S. withdrew its financial support to the organization two years ago after UNESCO gave Palestine full membership. This move came after congress enacted laws in the 1990s that mandated the U.S. cease payments if Palestine was accepted as full members of a United Nations agency, the New York Times reported.

According to the rules of UNESCO, if a country fails to pay its dues for two consecutive years, voting rights are suspended.

"It was the first time that the United States had voluntarily given up its vote in an organization it belongs to," diplomats told the New York Times.

Israel has also lost the ability to vote as it, too, has withdrawn financial funding for similar reasons.

The U.S. contributed 22 percent of UNESCO's funding, and the withdrawal has caused the organization to make program cuts, according to Reuters.

The UNESCO general conference is currently under way in Paris. UNESCO American ambassador David T. Killion said that the country would do what it could to continue its involvement, which began in 1945, and said the organization was important for America's work abroad.

Killion told the New York Times that the organization is essential in building a strong future.

"The Obama administration (is) committed to getting funding restored so that the United States (can) pay its dues and regain its position as a voting member," the New York Times reported Killion saying.

“We will not rest until we succeed,” he said.

The New York Times reported that UNESCO has allowed the U.S. to promote democracy and other national values like human rights, freedoms and education in a neutral setting. Because of decreased financial backing from the U.S., the influence America once enjoyed will be diminished, according to Irina Bokova, UNESCO's director general.

"The United States’ reduced voice at the agency will make it more difficult for it to advance its interests in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where UNESCO has programs that the United States has strongly backed, including literacy for girls," Bokova told the New York Times.

Email: ebuchanan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: emmiliewhitlock

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