November 12th, 2011
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UNESCO short of funds, to shut down till year end

UNESCONew York: UNESCO has been compelled to suspend all its spending programmes until the end of the year after the US withdrew its funding over the issue of Palestnian membership. The UNESCO, will trim its budget, restrict travel and publications, put all spending under review, and freeze any new projects between now and the end of the year.

Addressing UNESCO diplomats, UNESCO director deneral Irina Bokova said that the agency faces a $65 million funding shortfall and would have to halt all of its activities following a row with Washington over Palestinian membership.”This deficit corresponds to the sum due from the United States for the year 2011. The United States has a habit of paying their contribution at the end of the year for reasons of their own budget calendar,” she said.

Bokova indicated that “we will, therefore, have to take radical measures; I have suspended the entirety of our undertakings. I have suspended the execution of our programmes, during our review process, until the end of the year.”

The US withheld its contributions following the admission of Palestine to UNESCO on October 31, leaving it with an immediate shortfall of $65 million to the end of 2011, and a further gap of 22 per cent in its $653 million budget for 2012-2013. Israel followed suit and withheld its contribution of $1.5 million for 2012-2013.

The United States has said it had no choice because legislation dating back to the 1990s mandates a complete cutoff of money to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. The United States provides 22 percent of the Unesco budget, and the withdrawal of funding has thrown the organization into crisis.

Irina Bokova director general of UNESCO, said “For us it is difficult, but it is not a crisis. We have to make cuts and to streamline activities. I see this also as an opportunity for more vigorous reforms in the organization: cutting administrative costs, and releasing the resources for program activities, according to our mandate. I pledged to the general conference that I will be making a very thorough review of every single activity in order to make the organization stronger and more flexible, more relevant and leaner in terms of administration. But this can not substitute 22 percent of our budget.”

“I have established an emergency fund, to which governments, private institutions and even citizens can contribute. We have a huge amount of support. We have received hundreds of messages and even checks from ordinary citizens. I have also appealed for some voluntary contributions. It is a combination of measures that can help our organization get out of this situation,” she added.




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