The United States stopped paying its dues to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization when Palestine became a formal member of the group last year. If it does not resume paying dues next year, the United States will lose its membership, Voice of America reported Thursday.
UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova called the funding freeze by the agency's largest contributor as crippling, leaving it with a $152 million budget gap.
"And because the U.S. always pays at the end of the year, always, we have already spent this money in the expectation that the U.S. was going to pay," she said. "So it was very unexpected, drastic, and that is why I dare say it was the worst-ever financial situation for the organization."
The freeze has forced the agency, based in Paris, to make drastic spending cuts to staffing and programs, including Holocaust education, Bokova said.
"It is important, not only because we fund Holocaust [education] per se -- it is part of it, of course, but for us it is linked to genocide, it is linked to human rights," said Bokova. "For many countries, African and others, this is important work that has to be done."
Bokova has been lobbying U.S. politicians for a change in policy, asserting that it is not just about money.
"Because they will not only lose their voting rights, but they are losing their credibility," she said. "We have a lot of expectations that this message will be well understood by the United States."