Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - Page 7 News List

US, Israel lose UNESCO voting rights

‘TOOTHLESS’:Many fear the move means the US can no longer be a major world player in programs that fight extremism through education and that promote gender equality

AP, PARIS

The Obama administration has proposed language to amend the legislation, but it remains on the table amid recent US budget setbacks.

For some it is a question of sooner rather than later, with the US racking up arrears to UNESCO of about US$220,000 a day, which it will have to pay back if it ever wants to fill the empty chair and get back the vote.

“Paying off three years is manageable, but it indeed becomes much more difficult if you allow many years to pass and the bill gets larger and larger and larger,” former US assistant secretary of state for international organizations Esther Brimmer said.

The Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, Elias Sanbar, said other countries are beginning to make up for the US shortfall.

“Is this in the interest of the US, to be replaced?” he asked.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova lamented the changes that are not only seeing the US silenced within her organization, but also bringing UNESCO financially to its knees.

“I regret to say that I’m seeing, in these last two years ... a declining American influence and American involvement,” Bokova said in an interview.

Bokova said she accepts political reality and will find ways for UNESCO to continue its work, despite next year’s budget that is down by an estimated US$150 million.

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