Palestine becomes Unesco member

 

Unesco today stood defiant in the face of threats to its funding by awarding Palestine full membership of the body in a largely symbolic result hailed by the Palestinians as a crucial victory as they vie for full UN membership.

There were loud cheers as the voting results came in: 107 in favour, 14 against and 52 abstentions. The vote would, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told delegates in Paris after the result, "erase a tiny part of the injustice done to the Palestinian people."

But it was a risky gambit that looks like having harsh consequences for the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural body, which now faces losing at least 22 per cent – or $70m– of its funding from the United States, which is obliged by a two decades-old law to withdraw support from any body that grants the Palestine Liberation Organisation the standing of a state.

The vote would, said David Killion, US ambassador to Unesco, "complicate" Washington’s efforts to support the body, but insisted that the US remained "deeply committed" to the institution and would seek alternative ways to fund it.

Israel, which voted against the motion, accused the Palestinians of taking a counter-productive step that will change nothing on the ground, while moving a peace agreement further out of reach.

"Unesco deals in science, not science fiction," said Nimrod Barkan, Israel's ambassador to Unesco. "They forced on Unesco a political subject out of its competence. They have forced a drastic cut in contributions to the organisation."

But the Palestinians viewed the move as a measure of international support and a moral victory for their campaign to internationalise the conflict amid a prevailing domestic view that peace negotiations have achieved little or nothing for the Palestinians in nearly 20 years of talks.

Israel and the Americans have insisted that the only way to achieve an independent state is through face-to-face negotiations with Israel, and they have both lobbied vigorously against a parallel Palestinian effort to seek full membership of the UN, a bid that is almost certainly doomed in light of Washington's insistence that it will veto the move.

But today’s vote, seen by some as a trial run for the real thing, faced no such obstacles. The Palestinian bid had stirred powerful emotions, and it was largely thanks to the Arab states that the vote went ahead as scheduled despite US and European efforts to delay it. One delegate cried “Long Live Palestine!” in French after the result was announced.

Besides Israel, the US, Canada and Germany all voted against, while Britain and Japan abstained. France, Russia and China voted yes.

The full implications of the US threat to halt funding remain unclear. Unesco, which protects world heritage sites and promotes literacy programmes, has a projected two-year budget of $643m for 2010-2011. If the US contribution for this period is withheld – the US normally pays towards the end of the two-year period - this would force almost immediate cutbacks.

But Unesco, sometimes accused of taking an anti-Israel stance, has survived without US funding in the past. The US withdrew from the body under President Ronald Reagan in 1984 over what it described as “growing disparity between US foreign policy and Unesco goals” only to rejoin two decades later under President George W Bush. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore