There has been focus on UNESCO recently. It admitted Palestine as a full member (although I am not sure whether Palestine has signed up to the constitution of the UNESCO, which is a condition of membership) and in consequence the United States has withdrawn its funding. In 1985 the United Kingdom withdrew from UNESCO for 12 years in protest against its politicisation: there have been other state withdrawals, so this is nothing new. The episode reveals a fundamental inconsistency in the operation of UNESCO and, indeed, other international organisations. UNESCO is based on a constitution which dedicates the organisation to equal opportunities and the free flow of information and ideas. Given the decades-old denial of such rights to the citizens of many of its member states, one wonders why more is not done to promote those ideals. The denial of freedom of communication and women’s rights in Middle Eastern states is headline news. Worse still, the UN Human Rights Commission on Human Rights has, as elected members, Bahrain, where 20 doctors and nurses are on retrial for treating injured protesters during the recent uprising, and Saudi Arabia, whose repression of women’s rights is infamous. Libya has only just been suspended from membership. The basic premise of these international organisations is one state one vote; and equal rights. So why should nations who do not themselves accord votes and equality to their citizens have voting rights within the international organisation?
STOP PRESS: Syria has been elected onto UNESCO’s human rights and NGO committees after being nominated by the Arab bloc, one day before being suspended by the Arab League. http://www.unwatch.org/cms.asp?id=2750557&campaign_id=65378 It is impossible to respect UNESCO now, indeed this is a travesty of all it used to stand for.