United States loses UNESCO vote because of dues cutoff

Nov. 8, 2013 at 4:30 PM

PARIS, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- The United States was stripped Friday of its vote in UNESCO, the United Nations agency that promotes scientific and cultural exchange, officials said.

The United States stopped paying dues to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 after the agency granted Palestine status as a member state. Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress barred the country from supporting organizations that recognize an independent Palestine.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said the country would remain actively involved UNESCO.

"We note a loss of vote in the General Conference is not a loss of U.S. membership," Psaki said. "The United States intends to continue its engagement with UNESCO in every possible way -- we can attend meetings and participate in debate, and we will maintain our seat and vote as an elected member of the Executive Board until 2015."

Irina Bokova, the UNESCO director general, told The New York Times in an interview at the Paris headquarters that the loss of U.S. financial support had had an effect on its programs.

"I deeply regret this," she said of the vote loss. "This is not some kind of punishment on behalf of Unesco for nonpayment. It's just our rules."

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