CMEP Bulletin: A New Member at UNESCO

CMEP Bulletin: A New Member at UNESCO

This week’s Churches for Middle East bulletin

The abstract debate over recognition of a Palestinian state continued this week when the UN’s educational and culture agency, UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member state. But while the debate about statehood is taking place at an existential level, the impact of the vote is quite tangible.

With Monday’s announcement that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) admitted Palestine as a full member, the Obama Administration announced that it will not pay its contributions to the agency – about $60 million due this month.

The overwhelming support for Palestinian membership in the agency (the vote was 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions) was tinged by the dire economic consequences for UNESCO, which provides a broad range of services from Tsunami early warning system to clean water programs in developing countries. The United States contributes approximately 22 percent of the agency’s funding but those funds are conditioned on two laws from the early 1990s that prohibit funding for any UN agency that recognizes the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), or any state without the “internationally recognized attributes of statehood,” as a member state. 

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the vote was, “regrettable, premature, and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East.” When challenged by a reporter about what real detrimental impact Palestinian membership would have, Nuland further explained, “Again, we are trying to get both of these parties back to the table. That’s what we’ve been doing all along… and we are concerned that we exacerbate tensions with this, and it makes it harder to get the parties back to the table.”

Click here to continue reading this CMEP Bulletin, including the following items:

  • Israel reacts
  • What next at the UN
  • Violence erups in Gaza, southern Israel
  • Beyond Gaza violence
  • Settlers destroy olive trees