UNESCO Struggles to Address Major Funding Shortfall

    A 'Please Donate' sign. Donations for UNESCO can now be made online through a link on the UN agency's website. Photo by: Howard Lake / CC BY-SA

    UNESCO has temporarily suspended some of its activities and would not implement any new projects through the end of 2011 as part of its efforts to deal with the funding void left by the United States’ withdrawal of financial support for the agency.

    The United States deferred payment of the $65 million it planned to contribute to UNESCO this November after the agency’s general assembly voted to accept the Palestinian Authority as a full member on Oct. 31. The U.S. government is legally mandated to stop funding U.N. entities that accept Palestine as a member.

    In her address to the closing session of the agency’s general assembly in Paris, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova announced several measures the agency’s leadership is undertaking to cope with what she described as a “difficult situation” and “a test for our organization.”

    Bokova launched an emergency multidonor fund that is open to member states, public institutions, foundations and individuals. Donations can be made online through a link on UNESCO’s website.

    “This is not simply another extra-budgetary fund,” Bokova said. “It will be directed to supporting our core activities, so that they are not affected by a difficult financial situation.”

    The director general also urged UNESCO member states to approve an immediate increase of the group’s reserve fund from $30 million to $65 million for 2012-2013. Further, she encouraged governments to pay their assessed 2012 dues as soon as possible. Bokova also proposed deferring a system where member states that pay contributions on time benefit from a reduction.

    Meantime, UNESCO is reviewing all its planned activities for November and December. Bokovo said she has “temporarily interrupted certain activities to revise their costs.”

    According to a UNESCO official, who requested anonymity, the agency would not be supporting new projects through the end of December. The agency would still carry out all projects already committed but there is still no decision on how UNESCO would proceed in 2012, The Associated Press reports.

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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.