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State still making the case for UNESCO funding

State still making the case for UNESCO funding

The State Department is still trying to convince Congress to restore funding for UNESCO, which was cut off after the U.N. cultural agency’s members granted full membership to the Palestinians — but there is little chance lawmakers will change the provision preventing U.S. funding.

State sent an unofficial memo to key congressional offices today titled, "How the Loss of U.S. Funding Will Impact Important Programs at UNESCO." The memo, which was passed to The Cable by a congressional source, argues that UNESCO programs will have to be cut back severely due to the loss of U.S. funding.

State Department spokespeople have said they are working with Congress in the hopes of amending the laws that cut off U.S. funds to any U.N. organization that admits Palestine as a full member, but there is broad bipartisan support for the funding cut-offs and no real congressional effort to change the law.

"The cut-off in U.S. funding may not directly affect extra-budgetary programs funded by other donors, but it will weaken UNESCO’s presence in the field and undermine its ability to take on and manage such projects and programs," the memo stated (emphasis theirs).

UNESCO will lose $240 million of funding for fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013 — roughly 22 percent of its budget — and will have to scale down programs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, and South Sudan, the memo states.

The memo also lists several ways that UNESCO supports U.S. national security interests. These include "sustain[ing] the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring" and democratic values around the world, promoting nation-building in South Sudan, and encouraging Holocaust education in the Middle East and Africa.

Read the full memo after the jump:

How the Loss of U.S. Funding Will Impact Important Programs at UNESCO 

 

The U.S. assessment funds 22 percent of the UNESCO regular budget.   For the 2012-2013 biennium budget of $653M, UNESCO will lose $160M ($144M plus another approximately $12M to cover currency conversions, for a total of about $80M per year).   More immediately, it will lose the U.S. dues owed for 2011 — $80M — which the U.S. had not yet paid at the time of the cutoff.   (The U.S. normally pays its dues on an annual basis at the end of the calendar year.)   Thus, UNESCO will begin the new budget biennium on January 1, 2012, with a total shortfall of approximately $240M for 2011, 2012 and 2013. 

The programs described below are funded through UNESCO’s regular budget or through extra-budgetary contributions by member states.   All depend on staff resources and infrastructure (field offices) funded through the regular budget.  The cut-off in U.S. funding may not directly affect extra-budgetary programs funded by other donors, but it will weaken UNESCO’s presence in the field and undermine its ability to take on and manage such projects and programs.  UNESCO’s Director General  Irina Bokova has said she will be forced to close as many as 20 out of UNESCO’s 60 field offices, of which 55 are in LDCs.   UNESCO will also be forced to cut back UNESCO’s Education, Science, Culture and Communications  Sectors which provide subject expertise and program management skills.

 How does UNESCO Support U.S. Interests? 

UNESCO actively promotes democratic values around the world, reinforcing U.S. efforts, particularly in politically sensitive environments and conflict zones where it can be difficult for the U.S. to operate. UNESCO programs are serving to sustain the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring, promote peace and nation-building in south Sudan, support democratic reforms in Iraq and Afghanistan, and encourage Holocaust Education in the Middle East and Africa U.S. contributions to UNESCO leverage funding from other donors for programs that promote media freedom, democratic institution-building, peace and stability, and disaster response and prevention. UNESCO’s operating costs in the field, including its security costs, are much lower than those of U.S. contractors, particularly in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan and the Middle East.

Some Key Programs Affected by the Loss of U.S. Funding

Transparency and Accountability of the Judiciary in Iraq

This $1M project is designed to promote public confidence in the Iraqi judiciary through training and support to the Public Information Office of Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council, improving their accessibility to the media.  Trust in the judiciary system helps deter people from seeking justice through extra-judicial means, increasing the stability of the Iraqi government and promoting democracy and transparency after the departure of U.S. forces.   State INL has committed to fund this project, but the release of funds has been suspended following the Palestine vote.  

Building capacities in Strategic Water Resources Planning in Iraq

Over 25% of Iraq’s population lacks access to clean drinking water, and agricultural production is severely weakened by drought.   As such, water scarcity is a huge security concern for Iraq.  This project addresses these issues by strengthening Iraq’s National Water Council, establishing a database on Iraq’s aquifers, soil composition, and groundwater replenishment, and by identifying priority areas for agricultural development.   At UNESCO’s request, the Iraqi Government committed $500,000 to the initial phase of this project, and the U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) was ready to provide $900,000 in U.S. funds.   The EU promised to provide $7M for the second stage of this project.   Since the Palestine vote, the Army Corps of Engineers is no longer able to support the first phase, putting the entire project at risk.   

Iraq Literacy and Curriculum Development Programs

UNESCO is the lead UN agency coordinating literacy and non-formal education in Iraq.   Under the literacy program, UNESCO has helped develop a national literacy strategy, new literacy curricula, textbooks and teacher guides.  Under the curriculum program, UNESCO is helping to rewrite Iraq’s school curriculum and textbooks in order to improve quality and promote democratic values.   The programs promote critical thinking skills to fight violent extremism and confidence to participate in the democratic process.   These two programs are funded by $11M in extra-budgetary contributions to UNESCO by Sheikha Mozah, the First Lady of Qatar, and managed by UNESCO’s Iraq Field Office, which is financed through the regular UNESCO budget, of which the U.S. pays 22 percent.   Loss of U.S. funding will weaken the Field Office and make it more difficult to attract additional contributions to carry out this important project.   

Promoting Civic Values & Life Skills among Iraqi Adolescents

This project is aimed at the most vulnerable and marginalized among the Iraqi 12-19 demographic.  It is designed to train teachers in a curriculum that promotes civic values and life skills, including good citizenship and women’s rights.  Activities are "geared towards assisting young people contribute to their own protection from abuse and exploitation."  Funded by the European Commission and partnerships with other UN agencies, this program is managed by UNESCO’s Iraq Field office, which is financed by the regular UNESCO budget, of which the U.S. pays 22 percent.   Loss of U.S. funding will weaken the ability of the Field Office to attract and manage important contributions such as this one.

Afghan Mapping Initiative for Geospatial Technologies Capacity Building and Training

Detailed knowledge of the geography of the mountains of Afghanistan has obvious implications for the security and environmental stability of the Afghan state.  The U.S. Geological Survey provided $117,000 to UNESCO in 2011 for the first round of training designed to build capacity in geo-informatics for Afghan Geodesy and Cartography Head Office staff.   Additional rounds of training had been planned by all parties, though the source of funding had yet to be identified.  The cut-off in U.S. funding will suspend this promising program.  

Literacy for Afghan Police

Currently 70% of police officers in Afghanistan cannot read or write. This $3M program provides literacy training for 3,000 members of the Afghan National Police. The program will develop 20 master trainers, allowing the continuation of the efforts after the program’s end, leading to a long-term contribution to the capacity and stability of the Afghan state.   It contributes to global efforts at nation-building in Afghanistan.  This project is funded by Japan.  It is managed by UNESCO’s Afghanistan Field office, with the support of UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, both of which are financed through UNESCO’s regular budget, of which the U.S. contributes 22 percent. 

Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA)

Literacy acquisition can play a significant role in post-conflict rehabilitation, particularly when linked with peace-building, and livelihood skills training. This program will provide six months of literacy training to 600,000 Afghan citizens, including 360,000 women.   The most successful graduates of the program will also receive job training, to help them avoid resorting to illegal activities to make a living. This $36M project is funded by Japan.  It is managed by the Afghanistan Field office,  with support from UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, both of which are financed through UNESCO’s regular budget, of which the U.S. pays 22 percent.

Tsunami Early Warning Systems

In March 2011, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center released an alarm following the deadly earthquakes in Japan, saving tens of thousands of lives.  As seen in Japan, the second-order impact of tsunamis can include nuclear accidents, raising global security challenges. International Early Warning Systems help developing nations that lack the technology to predict tsunamis, and are critical to U.S. communities as well. UNESCO’s Tsunami Program, managed by its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), works to reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods that can be caused by tsunamis worldwide.  The IOC Tsunami Unit supports IOC Member States in assessing tsunami risk, implementing Tsunami Early Warning Systems (EWS) and in educating communities at risk about preparedness measures.   In 2011, the U.S. contributed $949,002 in extra-budgetary funding for the IOC, of which $23,200 was directed to the Tsunami Program in the Pacific and another $139,000 was targeted for the Caribbean.  The U.S. contributes 22% of the IOC’s regular annual budget of approximately $4.8M.  

Integrated Plan for managing Hydrological Extremes and Related Geo-hazards in Pakistan

Improving Pakistan’s capacity to prepare for and eventually avoid flooding disasters can reduce the need or massive humanitarian interventions (the U.S. provided over $340 M in assistance to Pakistan in response to the 2010 floods), reduce poverty, and promote greater stability, all critical to combating terrorism in the region.  This $7.2M program is intended to integrate flood and watershed management, restore existing degraded early warning systems, and strengthen Pakistan’s flood warning and management capacity, including addressing secondary problems arising in a flooding emergency (management of groundwater and landslide hazards).   Japan has committed $3.7M towards this program.  This will be managed by UNESCO’s Pakistan Field Office, which is financed through UNESCO’s regular budget, of which the U.S. contributes 22 percent.  Loss of U.S. funding will weaken the Field Office and make it more difficult to attract additional contributions to carry out this important project.   

Groundwater Resources Exploration & Capacity-building Initiative to Combat Drought & Famine in the Horn of Africa

Given the status of the Horn of Africa as a base or transit area for terrorist organizations, combating the chronic water insecurity that contributes to radicalization and anarchy in the region is in the U.S. interest. The first phase of this proposed UNESCO/U.S. Geological Survey joint project involves an emergency humanitarian phase designed to help approximately 950,000 refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia access water.  The second phase is designed to improve overall management of the concerned water basins.  USAID was interested in funding the program, but the U.S. funding cutoff means the U.S. can no longer support this critical project through UNESCO to draw on its unique hydrological expertise.   

International Program for the Development of Communication—Middle East & North Africa

UNESCO’s International Program for the Development of Communication (IPDC) is the only multilateral program in the UN system designed to promote independent media in developing countries in support of freedom of expression and government transparency and accountability.  In the wake of the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, journalists have been trained in investigative journalism skills, journalism ethics, professionalism, conflict sensitivity, and the interactions of media and democracy.  The U.S has contributed between $200,000 and $300,000 a year in extra-budgetary funds for the last five years, prompting other countries (including India) to provide additional contributions.  The U.S. will no longer be able to fund this critical program.

South Sudan:  Promoting Education in Support of Nation-Building

UNESCO is working with the Government of South Sudan to design and implement a ten-year strategy to build its first-ever Ministry of Education and to develop a plan to educate up to1M school-age children of 2.9M returning refugees. This effort is being implemented by UNESCO’s International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP), with the support of UNESCO’s Juba Field Office. UNICEF is providing $250,000 towards covering the program costs. UNESCO is currently working with other donors to identify additional funding to help expand educational programs and activities designed to support Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) of child soldiers through vocational training and peace-building programs.   A 22 percent cut to UNESCO’s operating costs will have a major impact on the ability of UNESCO’s Juba Office and IIEP to develop and support important nation-building activities in South Sudan.