Kerry lobbies for U.S. to remain on UNESCO board despite arrears

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 18, 2015 8:40 AM

By Lesley Wroughton

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday lobbied for the United States to be reelected to UNESCO's board, promising to work with Congress to restore funding after Washington cut off its contributions in 2011 in protest over the Palestinians being admitted as full members.

In a speech at UNESCO's Paris headquarters, Kerry said it would be easier to make a case for funding to Congress if the United States was on UNESCO's board.

"We are seeking reelection to the executive board because we believe that both the United States and UNESCO are better off the deeper our ties extend, " Kerry told UNESCO member countries and officials.

"And in standing for reelection, both President Obama and I are also pledging to work with our former colleagues in the U.S. Congress, and do all we can to restore U.S. funding to UNESCO in full," he said.

The United States lost its voting rights to UNESCO general assembly in November 2013 under the agency's rules after Washington failed to pay its dues, although it has remained on the executive board. It is currently $300 million in arrears to UNESCO.

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Before pulling financial support for UNESCO, the United States provided about 22 percent of its annual budget. Israel also lost its voting rights at the same time.

Kerry said the United States would help launch an education initiative on tolerance and dealing with violent extremism.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Angus MacSwan)