Paris, France – Palestine is now 195th Member State of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), marking a significant step in its quest for nationhood. For its membership to take effect*, Palestine must sign and ratify UNESCO’s Constitution which is open for signature in the archives of the Government of the United Kingdom in London.
The Palestinian bid received 107 “yes” votes during a UNESCO meeting in Paris, with 14 countries voting against and 52 abstaining. The decision grants full membership to Palestine.
Last month, the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Mahmoud Abbas, submitted a request fro nationhood to the UN Security Council which is still under consideration.
According to media reports, UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova said Friday she was very concerned about the possible withdrawal of US funding.
“This would have serious consequences, programmes would have to be cut, our budget would have to be rebalanced,” she told AFP in an interview.
“The US administration supports UNESCO, but (the Americans) are trapped by laws adopted 20 years ago,” Bokova said, adding that she was “neutral” on the question of Palestinian membership.
David Killion, US’s representative at UNESCO has already hinted that the decision would “complicate our ability to support UNESCO,” and reiterated the Obama adminstration’s past criticism of Palestinian bids for UN recognition.
“The only way forward to the Palestinian state we seek is through negotiations,” AlJazeera qouted Killion. “We believe efforts such as what we have seen today are counterproductive.”
According to experts, the vote will almost certainly trigger a US law, passed in 1990, which bars the US from funding any United Nations agency “which accords the Palestine Liberation Organisation the same standing as member states.” The US provides about $80 million per year, or 22 per cent of the agency’s total budget.
Al Jazeera reported that the European Union tried to stop the PLO bid by offering them limited membership on UNESCO’s executive committee, and funds to renovate the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.