LETTER: We must take the lead on Unesco

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From Mr David Wardrop

Sir: In his article "Where Britain gets it wrong" (4 September), David Howell MP, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, offers four examples of the UK government's over-submissive approach to foreign policy. He would agree to a fifth, the UK's overdue announcement that it will return to membership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

In 1993 Douglas Hogg, Foreign Office Minister, conceded that there remained no obstacles to the UK rejoining. It was a case of finding the money - and waiting for the Americans. But in the same month Mr Howell's committee concluded that the Government's claim that it could not afford to rejoin Unesco was unconvincing and, anyway, incompatible with its suggestion that an American decision in Unesco's favour would require the UK to follow suit.

It went on to urge that we rejoin immediately. There was such broad support for Early Day Motion 1220 (1993) urging rejoining that it would have received a majority in a free parliamentary vote. Similar motions in 1994 and 1995 were also well supported.

This November marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of Unesco's constitution here in London. About then, a statement urging an early return to membership and already gathering support from a prestigious cross-section of the academic, scientific and cultural community (for co-operation in whose fields Unesco was set up), will be presented to Unesco's director- general, Dr Federico Mayor.

Mr Howell's general point will be well demonstrated if, despite this weighty evidence of support, the Government fails to re-empower our professionals in Unesco's important fora but continues to allow Washington to determine its timetable.


David Wardrop


Friends of Unesco

London, SW1

4 August

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