UNESCO Director General Presses Washington to Restore U.S. Funding
Director-General Irina Bokova argued for the restoration of U.S. funding to UNESCO in the first of a series of high level meetings with Members of Congress in Washington yesterday.
In separate discussions with Representatives Steny Hoyer and Gary Ackerman, the Director-General highlighted the important work UNESCO is doing around the world to protect freedom of expression, promote the safety of journalists, enhance girl’s education and improve teacher training, among other important initiatives. She specifically drew attention to work undertaken to promote democratic institutions and to stabilize countries of particular interest to the United States.
“This cut in funds impedes our ability to implement programmes in Iraq and Afghanistan that lie at the core of U.S., national interests,” Irina Bokova said.
Rep. Hoyer and Rep. Ackerman expressed their support for UNESCO, with Mr. Hoyer calling it essential and Rep. Ackerman describing UNESCO’s work as magnificent. But both were also quick to point out that the effort to restore funds would not be an easy one, as it would require engaging the legislative process.
Congressman Hoyer is the second highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. of Representatives and Congressman Ackerman is the Ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Director-General Bokova also addressed the diplomatic community and members of the Obama Administration, and supporters of the organization at the home of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Esther Coopersmith. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer and White House Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren were among those in attendance.
A pre-existing law forced the U.S. to cut its funding to UNESCO following the General Conference vote admitting Palestine as the 195th Member to the organization on 31 October. The U.S. contribution to UNESCO represents 22% of its annual budget.