[Published 9 February 2012]
UNESCO seems set to preside over a looming global humanitarian crisis as it continues to struggle in its efforts to cope with the loss of $260 million - 22% of its projected budget - until the end of 2013.
Trying to make up the shortfall - including lobbying America and Israel to resume the payment of their dues and establishing an Emergency Fund to solicit donations from its other 193 member States and the public at large - have clearly failed so far.
UNESCO‘s finds itself in this sorry situation because of its decision to admit “Palestine“ as its 195th Member State on 31 October last.
In an effort to recoup the shortfall - I have proposed to UNESCO that it approach the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on whether the requirements of UNESCO’s Constitution were satisfied in admitting “Palestine”.
If the Court rules that the provisions of the Constitution were complied with - then this avenue as a means of recouping the $260 million would be closed - but the provisions of the Constitution would have been judicially interpreted to prevent a repeat of the current controversy when dealing with other applications to join UNESCO in the future.
If, however, the Court found the decision to be unconstitutional - then the $260 million would start to flow into UNESCO’s coffers immediately and the emerging global crisis impacting on scores of millions of people world wide would be averted.
Faced with continuing UNESCO resistance to discuss my detailed submission to it on 1 December last - I started an online petition on 1 January seeking public support for this proposal - which has so far attracted more than 1000 signatures from people in 26 countries. Please also sign it if you agree with the views expressed in this article.
What has been surprising - and very disturbing - has been the opposition expressed to signing my petition - which I have been able to attribute to five main reasons gleaned from the responses received so far to my proposal:
1. Some have expressed their utter contempt for UNESCO and its continued existence - suggesting it has become ineffectual and politicized and should be shut down.
They delight in the financial difficulties being faced by UNESCO - which they see as a self-serving organization that exists to feed an over bloated bureaucracy of overpaid and well travelled employees - rather than spending its budget on helping the hundreds of millions of people world wide who are crying out for some hope to relieve their distressing lives.
2. Some Americans are supportive of their country’s decision to stop the payment of its financial dues - automatically suspended as a result of an American law dating back to the 1990’s which prescribed such action should any UN agency act as UNESCO did. These people are more than happy to see this money - about $100 million yearly - go towards helping America solve its own pressing domestic financial problems.
They are hostile to UNESCO‘s lobbying attempts to try and get America to change its law or to otherwise circumvent the legislation to get America‘s dues back via some back-door manoeuvre.
3. Some have shown a total lack of concern or compassion for the difficulties facing hundreds of millions of people world wide if UNESCO is forced to curtail its humanitarian assistance. This attitude was succinctly expressed in the following comment:
“Palestine suffers from the actions of the world, the world can suffer from Palestine for once”
4. Some have expressed no confidence in the International Court being able to arrive at a fair and unbiased opinion - a waste of time and money
5. By far the largest number of those refusing to sign the petition are those who are opposed to UNESCO taking any steps that could possibly lead to Palestine’s admission to UNESCO being ruled unconstitutional.
People are entitled to their viewpoints - and to be criticised for holding those views. I have urged many expressing these views to think again and sign the petition - but to no avail.
UNESCO cannot allow its decision on Palestine - and its dire consequences - to simply end in UNESCO cutting its programs and its employees for 2012-2013 in accordance with a drastically revised budget - until it has explored every option to avoid this happening.
The consequences of such program cutting will clearly impact on the lives of millions of people world-wide. UNESCO would be clearly irresponsible if it failed to take any possible action available to arrest this emerging humanitarian landslide.
Spending $100000 approaching the International Court in the hope of avoiding this parlous situation is an option that UNESCO should grab with both hands.
The International Court cannot possibly hope to satisfy all of the above objectors.
If Palestine’s admission to UNESCO is found to be lawful - those espousing the views in groups 3 and 5 above will be happy and the rest will not . The status quo now existing will be maintained.
If Palestine’s admission to UNESCO is found to be unlawful - only those in group 4 may be persuaded to rethink their view of the International Court. None of the other 4 groups will be happy - but the status quo existing at 30 October 2011 will be restored - for better or for worse.
UNESCO should not be afraid to institute such legal action for fear of upsetting these objectors - since the number of people signing and still continuing to sign my petition clearly outnumber those opposed to signing it.
I have been encouraged by such response to set up a Facebook group called “Help Restore UNESCO’s Funding”.
I urge everyone - in favour of or opposed to UNESCO approaching the International Court - to join, have their say and to follow developments as they unfold at UNESCO and in the international arena.
UNESCO needs to be very careful that it does not create the impression that it can ignore its own constitution with impunity. Its failure to even discuss my detailed submission on the legality of its decision renders it open to such a charge and only serves to reduce its status and credibility among those signing the petition.
Seeking to resolve the current impasse by resorting to the law is not a known or an accepted practice in a large number of the 195 member states that make up UNESCO - where the rule of law and respect for the law in such countries is unknown.
Approaching the International Court in the present circumstances will help these states understand this still remains the best system yet devised for finally resolving issues between people with different viewpoints.
The law is not perfect and its decisions are often controversial and open to criticism and different interpretations.
However, it beats bullets, demonstrations and dying, tear gas and trauma - hands down.