US reaffirms strong ties to UNESCO despite late dues

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US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova
© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo

The US is deeply committed to the UN cultural organisation, UNESCO, Secretary of State John Kerry has said, despite an on-going rift with the US Congress over funding.

He spoke at the organisation's headquarters in Paris, and said that the Obama administration would work with Congress to try and restore funding, after legislators cut off contributions to the organisation in 2011.

Congress made its decision after against the Palestinian government was admitted as a full member of UNESCO.

Matthew Wells reports.

The US government currently owes the UN's cultural and educational organisation around US$300 million, after payments were stopped four years ago. Contributions from Washington used to account for 22% of UNESCO's budget.

As a result of its non-payment, the US lost voting rights to UNESCO's General Assembly in late 2013, but they retain a seat on the executive board, and Secretary Kerry said that he was proud the US was running for election once again.

He said that the partnership between the US and UNESCO had never been more important than now, given the destruction of historic cultural sites around the world at the hands of terrorist groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram.

"The US, a founding member of this organisation, remains committed to strengthening its role in promoting peace and security. It's why we so greatly value UNESCO as a platform for cooperation with you, our partners in advancing so many of our goals that we share as nations."

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, echoed Secretary Kerry's call for continued cooperation, saying that the organisation needed the US. She said she was confident that the funding arrears would be resolved.

She highlighted the wide range of shared objectives, including fighting extremism, countering racism, and fostering a sense of global citizenship.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1’23″

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