Game Plan for the UNESCO Shakedown
There’s a renewed push to circumvent U.S. law and fund the U.N. agency.


All of which might be of no great interest were Papagiannis laboring in Washington to enhance literacy, or perhaps restore cultural artifacts. But there’s a lot of discussion going on among this crowd about how the funding law might be waived. On one of the blogs linked to on the Americans for UNESCO site, there’s a post dated December 1 with the caption “The Process to Change the Law.” It outlines exactly how that might be done — by way of an amendment to a big spending bill: “There will probably not be a specific vote of the Congress on the proposed amendment. Rather it will be included in a larger bill to appropriate funds, that will probably be approved before March, 2013. . . . Lacking strong opposition in the Congress, the waiver will probably be incorporated into the bill.”


Is this credible? I phoned the author of the post, the same John Daly. Daly is an ardent supporter of UNESCO, but unlike Papagiannis he answered my questions. He said he got this information from Peter Yeo, when Yeo spoke at a November 26 panel hosted by Americans for UNESCO at George Washington University. Yeo is a former congressional staffer who now serves as executive director of the Better World Campaign, which is an advocacy arm of Ted Turner’s well-heeled and well-connected U.N. Foundation. In a phone interview this week, Yeo repeated the view that a waiver for UNESCO is likely to go through in “a big omnibus spending bill,” because “this is a strategy that’s been outlined by the president.”

When Yeo shared these thoughts at last month’s Americans for UNESCO panel, he was speaking alongside Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer. Both of them were responding to a keynote speech by UNESCO’s George Papagiannis.

Information gleaned from UNESCO’s Paris press office this week suggests Bokova will be meeting in Washington with pretty much this same cast of characters who last month were discussing the legislative sleight of hand for hooking UNESCO back up to U.S. taxpayers’ wallets. Squired by Papagiannis, Bokova will be visiting the State Department, plus the U.N. Foundation and “other institutes and foundations.” And which lawmakers will she be seeing this time? Papagiannis replied to that question with an e-mail: “Our meetings are very fluid. At the end of the visit there will be a press release, which you will have access to.”

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