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
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk