UNESCO Director General Highlights Key Science Initiatives in Push to Restore U.S. Funding
Science, in the context of UNESCO’s work on oceans and sustainable development, took center stage as Director General Irina Bokova continued to push for the restoration of U.S. funding to the organization on the final day of her three day mission to Washington. “You cannot conceive of sustainable development without considering the oceans,” Director-General Bokova told Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Dr. Jane Lubchenco in a meeting on Friday morning. The Director General and Under Secretary Lubchenco, who also serves as the director of NOAA, agreed on the necessity to make scientific research accessible around issues related to oceans, especially at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in June next year, better known as the Rio+20.
Under Secretary Lubchenco voiced her concern that the sudden cut in U.S. funding to UNESCO will negatively impact the organization in areas that are critical to U.S. interests. “The efficiency of our Tsunami Early Warning System has greatly benefited from the free and open exchange of data through the IOC.” UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission or IOC manages the warning system and received U.S funds for its operations. “The IOC is an apolitical scientific forum which facilitates the exchange of data among nations and what it does is important for America and the world,” Lubchenco said.
Foreign Policy issues were also on the agenda for the Director General as she met with members of the Council on Foreign Relations where she had the opportunity to lay out the ramifications of the U.S. funding cut to some of Washington’s most influential foreign policy thinkers. “It is not just about money,” the Director-General told the members, “but there is also the significant role the United States plays in promoting our shared values such as press freedom, human rights, girls’ education and developing curricula that explain the Holocaust for young children around the world.”
The U.S. contribution to UNESCO was abruptly cut following the decision of the General Conference to elevate Palestine to full membership affecting 2011, 2012 and 2013. The U.S. funds 22% of UNESCO’s budget.