US Funding Cuts to UNESCO Hurt Afghanistan, Iraq Projects

UNESCOprograms in Iraq and Afghanistan are in danger of being halted or discontinued after the United States cut its $80 million contribution to the agency.

Some of the programs that will be affected by the budget cut are education and literacy training to Afghans and Iraqis, special training for the Iraqi judiciary and news media, special literacy training to the Afghan police, and a partnership with the Iraqi National Water Council to create a database of the country’s underground water supplies.

George Papagiannis, an American who used to work at the UNESCO office in Baghdad, Iraq, said “the ramifications are serious.”

“The larger issue is how a law has undermined our capacity to deliver in a place very critical to American interests. We’ve invested gazillions of dollars in Iraq, and we can’t put a price on the lives of the Americans and Iraqis who died, and we promised to help build a new Iraq, something fresh and new in the Middle East, and then we hamstring ourselves,” he said.

The fund pays for 22 percent of the budget of all U.N. agencies, and losing it also meant funding cuts within the organization.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has already instituted a freeze on all spending, including hiring, travel and cancellation of some contracts of outside consultants for future savings. She hopes, however, that the budget cutoff will only be temporary.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.