UNESCO Goes to Washington
The organization plans to open a new office to influence U.S. policy.

UNESCO’s Bulgarian director general, Irina Bokova


Meanwhile, over at UNESCO, who’s minding the store? Just last week, UNESCO’s 58-member executive board, which includes Syria, voted to keep Syria’s bloody regime on UNESCO’s human-rights committee. Also last week, UNESCO’s board approved a long-debated $3 million science prize sponsored by dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, with the concession that it will be named not for Obiang himself, but for the country he has been tyrannizing for the past 33 years, Equatorial Guinea.

As for Palestinian membership, there’s no sign that UNESCO’s members, its secretariat, or for that matter the U.S. State Department are toiling to undo it. All the pressure is on Congress, to accommodate UNESCO and the Palestinians by changing U.S. laws.

When the Palestinian flag was raised in December at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wisely warned that “asserting the existence of a Palestinian state does not make it so. It only makes real peace harder to achieve.” She added: “The only thing deterring more UN bodies from following in UNESCO’s reckless, anti-peace footsteps is the credible threat of a U.S. funding cutoff, as U.S. law requires. Money talks at the UN.”

Here’s a suggestion. Last April, UNESCO’s auditors reported that with better management, “UNESCO can make substantial savings of up to $3.1 million annually in Headquarters travel costs.” The auditors focused on such items as UNESCO’s failure to issue clear travel rules and the extravagant use of business-class air tickets, which accounted for 37 percent of all air-travel costs. And clearly UNESCO could achieve yet more savings by cutting back on excursions to Washington by Director-General Bokova and her retinue, and scrapping Bokova’s plans for a Washington office. That would free more time and resources for Bokova and her staff to concentrate on cleaning up UNESCO, rather than trying to meddle with the laws of the United States.

— Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.