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UNESCO Suspends New Programs Due to Budget Hole

UNESCO announces it will suspend new programs due to a $65 million budget hole caused by its acceptance of the PA.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/11/2011, 12:40 AM

UNESCO’s recent acceptance of the Palestinian Authority as a full-member state has cost it $65 million, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.

The large hole in the agency’s budget was created by the loss of U.S. funds. The U.S. cut its funding to UNESCO immediately after the UN’s cultural agency approved the PA’s request for membership.

As a result, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said, the agency has temporarily suspended new programs.

“We have to take radical steps and we have to take them now,” Reuters quoted Bokova as saying at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris.

She said that the agency would conduct a review of its activities between now and the end of December, during which new commitments would be put on hold.

By reviewing its contractual commitments, staffing levels, travel expenses and communications costs, UNESCO could probably generate savings of up to $35 million for this year’s budget, Bokova explained.

She added that the agency would then use its $30 million working capital fund to cover the remainder of the $65 million shortfall, but that would leave its finances in a fragile state at the start of 2012.

Bokova also appealed for additional voluntary funding from other member states to bolster agency finances.

“I know this is not a long-term solution, but it will provide the organization with some breathing space to plan rationally within new conditions,” she was quoted as having said. She also urged member states to make their 2012 contributions as soon as possible.

Canada has also cut off some of its funding to UNESCO as a result of the acceptance of the PA.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird recently said his country would not give any more money to the agency to make up for the shortfall caused by the U.S. cut, saying that UNESCO will “have to go to the countries who supported this resolution, that caused this budget loophole.”