Canada Suspends Voluntary Contributions to UNESCO

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and staff meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his delegation following the formal application for U.N. membership. Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / UN

    Canada will stop its voluntary contributions to UNESCO and would not consider future funding proposals for its program following the agency’s acceptance of Palestine as a full member on Monday (Oct. 31), the Canadian foreign minister has announced.

    “Under no circumstances will Canada be contributing more money to cover any budgetary shortfall that may result from this decision,” John Baird said in a statement. “Canada has also decided that we are currently not considering any new funding proposals for UNESCO programs.”

    Canada was among the 14 UNESCO member countries that voted against the Palestinian Authority’s application for full membership into the agency. The application was approved by 107 member states, while 52 abstained.

    “Those countries that voted in favor of the Palestinian proposal ought to have known the potential financial implications this would have,” Baird added.

    Canada’s currently assessed contributions to UNESCO, which is funded by both assessed and voluntary contributions, would not be affected by the decision to withhold voluntary payments, CBC News says.

    Canada’s announcement follows a U.S. government decision to cancel the $60 million it promised to provide UNESCO this November. The United States, which also voted against the Palestinian application, is bound by law to completely cut off funding for U.N. agencies and entities that accept Palestine as a full member.

    Cascade effect

    Following UNESCO’s vote, the Palestinian authorities are seeking to seize momentum by applying for membership into other U.N. agencies and programs, starting with the World Health Organization, The Star reports.

    There are concerns now in Washington and elsewhere regarding the possible effect of this push by the Palestinians on the U.N. system, particularly after the United States indicated it is prepared to maintain its position on the issue.

    “We have made absolutely clear to the Palestinians, we’re making clear to our partners around the world, that we oppose continuing this effort in other UN organizations, and we are prepared to maintain our same position if this comes up in other places,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Victorial Nuland said at a Nov. 1 press briefing.

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    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.