US loses its vote at UNESCO over Palestinian membership funding cut
The United States has lost its voting rights at the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, two years after it cut its funding of the organization for admitting Palestine as a member state, UNESCO sources said Friday.
The US missed a Friday morning deadline to submit a letter to UNESCO justifying the non-payment of its dues and proposing a plan to settle its arrears, an official told dpa.
"The US has not submitted those documents, so it automatically loses its rights at the General Conference," the official explained, emphasizing that the development happened "as a matter of course," and that no decision to exclude the US was taken.
Paris-based UNESCO is best known for its efforts to promote education in developing countries and to protect cultural diversity, through its World Heritage Sites programme, among others.
The organization suffered a severe setback in 2011 when Washington, which accounted for about one-fifth of UNESCO's budget, announced it was pulling funding over Palestine becoming a member.
US laws ban the government from funding a UN agency that admits the Palestinians as full members. The decision put the US at odds with the overwhelming majority of UNESCO members, including France, who voted in favour of accepting the Palestinian membership bid.
The estrangement has embarrassed US President Barack Obama's administration, which has made clear it would like to normalize ties with UNESCO.
While the US remains an active member of the agency, it will no longer have a say in how it allocates its funds.