Spaniard Frederico Mayor took the helm of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization last November, pledging to reform UNESCO and lure the United States and Great Britain once two of the agency's largest contributors back into the organization.
The United States left UNESCO in 1984 and Great Britain in 1985, angry at then-General Secretary Amadou Mahtar M'Bow, who they said promulgated anti-Western programs and squandered millions in UNESCO contributions.Four months after replacing M'Bow, Mayor is taking concrete steps towards reform that may eventually lead to return of the dropouts. In a move designed to save millions of dollars, Mayor has instituted an austerity plan that calls for a 50 percent cut in paperwork, a 25 percent reduction in meetings, and the implementation of more efficient accounting of UNESCO resources.
It is a certainly a step in the right direction and one that's long overdue. But is it enough?
Considering UNESCO's earlier track record, the United States and Great Britain should test the waters before jumping back in.
It is one thing to announce changes. It is quite another to implement them. Considering the United States and Great Britain were the organization's two largest contributors prior to their withdrawal, they are in a position to demand that true reforms are actually made.
The loss in funding (the U.S. contributed about $50 million annually) prompted the ouster of M'Bow and the election of pro-Western Mayor.
When the United States does decide to rejoin the organization, there should be time-tested evidence that Mayor has really set UNESCO's house in order and restored its reputation.