In October 2011, Palestine was afforded full membership in the United Nations agency, automatically triggering an end to U.S. funding for the group. The U.S. response was part of a law originally signed by President George H.W. Bush and renewed by President Bill Clinton. According to that legislation, the recognition of Palestinian statehood by any department of the world body would bring about an immediate end to U.S. funding for that agency.
After an 18-year absence from UNESCO, President George W. Bush signed legislation rejoining the organization.
"This organization has been reformed, and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance, and learning," Bush said in an address to the UN General Assembly in September 2002.
"As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO," he added.
Now, after 12 years of participating in UNESCO’s various projects, once described by the Clinton administration as “mismanaged and overly political,” the United States is out again.
Given the persistence of the desperate indebtedness in which the government of the United States finds itself, the banking of the $80 million annually given to UNESCO can’t hurt. The U.S. contribution accounted for 22 percent of the agency’s annual budget.
Naturally, once the cutoff was announced, the cry went up that U.S. national security was at stake.
“How UNESCO contributes to national security isn’t as glaring as something like the International Atomic Energy Agency or the World Health Organization,” said UN advocate Mark Goldberg, as quoted in the Washington Post. “But it still does.”
Later in the article, Goldberg called the law triggering the automatic defunding “ridiculous,” labelling it the “canary in the coal mine” for U.S. national security interests, particularly with regard to the Iranian nuclear question.
Under the same law that stopped the flow of funds to UNESCO, the spigot sending cash to the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency would also be turned off.
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