Forty members of the Executive Board voted in favor, four against, and fourteen abstained.
|Photo credit: Mattox|
Ambassador David Killion, U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO, told the General Conference:
The United States has been very clear about the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the only path to the Palestinian state that we all seek is through direct negotiations. There are no shortcuts, and we believe efforts such as the one we have witnessed today are counterproductive....[W]e recognize that this action today will complicate our ability to support UNESCO’s programs. There are other ways of promoting the cause of the Palestinian people that would not have involved seeking premature membership at UNESCO. We sincerely regret that the strenuous and well-intentioned efforts of many delegations to avoid this result fell short.
America defunded 22% of UNESCO's operating budget, roughly $240 million, and withheld $60 million immediately after the UNESCO vote in 2011.
Facing an immediate financial crisis, UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova paid a visit to Capitol Hill in December 2012, supporting President Barak Obama's efforts to lift the funding ban.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Chairwoman of the influential House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee actively garnered support from lawmakers to uphold the payment suspension.
Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations at that time, appeared before the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in March 2012 to support refunding UNESCO. She told committee members:
Current U.S. law runs counter to U.S. national security interests by enabling the Palestinians to determine whether the U.S. can continue to fund and lead effectively in key U.N. specialized agencies that help protect Americans.
In the case of UNESCO, due to irresponsible Palestinian actions, we have withheld our funding for valuable work that supports key U.S. interests.
We believe our membership and participation in UNESCO is valuable and worth supporting.
- Jerusalem’s cultural heritage: The Board voted 34 to 1 (19 abstentions) to "reaffirm the religious significance of the Old City of Jerusalem for Muslims, Christians and Jews." The decision expresses "deep concern over the ongoing Israeli excavations and archaeological works on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, which contradicts UNESCO decisions and conventions and United Nations and Security Council resolutions." It invites the Director-General to appoint experts to be stationed in East Jerusalem to report on all aspects covering the architectural, educational, cultural and demographical situation there. It also invites the Israelis to facilitate the work of the experts in conformity with Israel’s adherence to UNESCO decisions and conventions.
- The Palestinian sites of al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law, the UNESCO Conventions and the United Nations and Security Council resolutions.
In the past, those items related to the Mughrabi Ascent, Jerusalem, Gaza and educational and cultural institutions in the Palestinian territories have always noted UNESCO’s accomplishments, cited continuing challenges, and encouraged all parties to work together toward a common goal, consistent with UNESCO’s mission.
During this Executive Board, the Arab states sponsoring the five resolutions made clear their unwillingness to negotiate, leaving one-sided, empty political condemnations that the United States felt were unhelpful to all involved parties. UNESCO’s expertise does not lie in accounting for the work of other United Nations bodies, nor should it take on a political role that it was neither conceived for, nor is within its competence.
Ambassador David Killion voted NO on all five of the Middle East resolutions before the Executive Board .... In voting against the UNESCO draft decision that stated that Rachel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarch's are "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories", Ambassador Killion stated "...we cannot support this draft decision, which supposes authority that UNESCO does not and cannot possess".
- The Ethics office is concerned by the fact that we received many requests from UNESCO employees about alleged abuse of authority or harassment by their supervisors.
- There also appears to be a failure by employees at all levels to take responsibility for their work, and an unwillingness to delegate authority. Many people who contact the Ethics Office, are more preoccupied in letting us know what they are not responsible for....
- The Ethics Office has received more and more complaints about the non-respect of private legal and financial obligations by UNESCO employees, sometimes by inappropriately using their diplomatic immunity.
UNESCO continued its longstanding tradition of making a mockery of its own institution…. This decision is more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies but it also serves as a direct contradiction to the UNESCO ideals of encouraging peace and universal respect for human rights. This latest reprehensible action is a microcosm of the existing problems within UNESCO today. There isn’t any semblance of common sense left in that body.... The Obama Administration is wrong to continue to seek to restore funding to UNESCO..
It is also possible that the continued absence of American cash and influence could shrink UNESCO, forcing the organization to rethink its aims and to reflect on its culture of consensus, or lack thereof.
UNESCO is already under fire by the U.K. for inefficiency and lack of transparency. That nation seeks reform. "If we are honest, as Member States we are inherently incoherent, and it is that incoherence we should really focus on for our future strategy, the U.K. told the General Conference last week. "We need more action on transparency too. Its a simple enough question, can I find out what UNESCO does, with what resources, to what effect and with which partners in my country or any other? If not why not? ... Let us be clear, this organisation is funded by our taxpayers. Their right to know what goes on here is at least as strong and valid as their right to know what goes on in government at home."