The move by UNESCO undermined the ability of the U.S. to exercise influence in other countries across the globe through the U.N.’s agency of aide and educational programs, according to diplomats from the West and experts in International relations.
Under the constitution of UNESCO, any country failing to pay its dues over a two-year period loses the right to vote in the general assembly of UNESCO.
The U.S. ceased its support in 2011 for the agency, in response to a UNESCO vote that gave full membership to Palestinians.
Congress enacted, in the 1990s, laws decreeing that the U.S. stop giving money to any agency in the U.N. that accepts full membership to Palestinians.
It was just the first time the U.S. voluntarily gave up its vote in an organization it is a member of, said diplomats.
Director General Irina Bokova of UNESCO said she deeply regretted doing this, as it was not a punishment for nonpayment, as it is just the organization’s rules.
Bokova has run the organization since 2009 and traveled in 2011 to Washington in an attempt to persuade lawmakers in the U.S. to change the language of the legislation after the funding had been initially cut off.
The White House administration attempted to push through that change in 2012, but it failed.
David Killion, the American ambassador for UNESCO said that the U.S. had previously been involved in the organization since its inception in 1945 and promised it would stay involved.
Killion praised UNESCO for the role it took in building peace, saying the organization was important for the Americans that work abroad.
Before Washington withdraw its support financially, it provided over $70 million or close to 22% of the annual budget of the agency and that suspension of money was felt immediately.
Some staff members at UNESCO were let go and some projects and programs delayed, including certain ones that potentially could have been beneficial to the U.S., said officials at the U.N.