UNESCO 'crippled' by US funding freeze: Director general

AFP , Thursday 11 Oct 2012

UNESCO chief admits funding shortages following the decision by Washington to cut its financial support to the international organisation after it granted full membership to Palestinians

elegates applaud after the vote at the UNESCO headquarters to give the Palestinians full membership of the body during the 36th session of UNESCO's General Conference in Paris, October 31, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

The United States' decision to cut its funding to UNESCO has left the UN cultural, education and science agency "crippled" and facing its worst ever financial crisis, its director general said Thursday.

Washington suspended its funding to the UN body, which oversees World Heritage sites and works in areas from literacy and media freedom to environmental issues, when it admitted the Palestinians last year.
That has forced UNESCO to leave 330 positions -- out of a total of 2,000 in the organisation -- unfilled when workers either left or retired, and has led it to close various programmes as part of swingeing cuts, said director general Irina Bokova.
She admitted the agency had been a "clumsy elephant" and that reform was already under way before the funding was pulled by the US, which says the Palestinians must first reach a peace agreement with Israel before they can become full members of an international organization.
But Bokova said that UNESCO's financial situation was "unsustainable" unless the US, whose cash freeze deprived the body of 22 percent of its budget, returned to the fold.
"It is the worst ever financial situation in the organisation.... It is not sustainable," she told reporters. "It will cripple... the way we work and the way we operate."
She said that it was also in the interest of the US to return because the country shares the values her Paris-based organisation seeks to promote.
The US pullout left a hole of $65 million (49 million euros) last year and a $143 million shortfall for 2012-2013, according to the UN agency, even though some countries have pledged exceptional contributions.
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