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Public Statements

Opposition to UNESCO Funding

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, last November, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, came to meet with my colleagues and me who serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee. In that meeting, Ambassador Power told us that despite U.S. law that prohibits any funding to UNESCO because of its decision to admit a nonexistent state of Palestine to its membership, the administration was going to make it a priority to seek waiver authority to continue U.S. taxpayer funding to UNESCO.

Indeed, this is coming to fruition. There is a congressional push by some to grant the administration this waiver or to seek other ways to get around this prohibition.

I am here today to voice my unconditional and unyielding opposition to this push, and I urge my colleagues to join me in removing that in the budget that will be before us soon and not allow the administration to yet again circumvent U.S. law and to throw away hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money.

The administration is seeking to not only restore $80 million in taxpayer funds to UNESCO for this fiscal year, but it is also seeking to pay nearly $250 million more in arrears--dues--that we owed to UNESCO, an agency that has an anti-U.S. and an anti-Israel agenda.

If we restore funding to UNESCO, we are tacitly agreeing with their support for Abbas, the PA, the PLO, the nonexistent state of Palestine, and the U.N. scheme to undermine the peace process by granting de facto recognition to a Palestinian state without it first coming to an agreement with Israel to resolve this long conflict.

A vote to restore any U.S. funding to UNESCO or to give the administration any waiver authority to circumvent the existing laws that prohibit U.S. funding to UNESCO would not only undermine our credibility and set a dangerous precedent; it would further embolden an already intransigent Abu Mazen and Palestinian Authority.

Why do I say ``intransigent''? Because even as we sit here, Mr. Speaker, reports indicate that a major holdup in the peace negotiations between Secretary Kerry, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority is the refusal by Abbas and the PA to recognize Israel as the Jewish State of Israel. Is that the kind of member that we want to be associated with in UNESCO--one that doesn't even recognize the identity of another state? And not just another state, but our closest ally.

I know that UNESCO is riddled with rogue regimes amongst its ranks, including the likes of Cuba, where the callous, brutal, and murderous Castro regime has been repressing the rights of 11 million Cubans for over half a century; and Syria, where the tyrant Assad has caused the deaths of over 130,000 people and brought the Middle East to the very brink.

But if we restore U.S. funding to UNESCO, we are essentially saying that this is okay, and, oh, by the way, why not add one more in Abbas? There has been a recent spate of terrorist activity against Israel; and rather than act like a true leader that seeks peace and a partner in a negotiated peace settlement, Abbas was definitely silent when it came time to denounce these acts of terror.

The powers that be at UNESCO don't seem to mind this at all. But not us, Mr. Speaker. We are better than that. We aren't about to trade in our credibility and our principles as a country for a plaque and platitudes for this circumvention. We know that if we concede to UNESCO and restore any funding, we would be making a grave mistake, and also wasting hundreds of millions of our constituents' dollars on this anti-U.S. agenda.

I will continue to fight this push to restore funding to UNESCO in any way, and I will continue to rally my colleagues to join me in this fight.


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