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Public Statements

No Funding for UNESCO

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, each year the United States taxpayers are on the hook for over $7 billion in contributions to the United Nations.

While some of this money is given by the United States on a voluntary basis and goes toward funding some helpful agencies at the U.N., a large portion of these funds are compulsory payments over which we have no oversight. Without the ability to perform oversight and mandate transparency and accountability, we have seen entities within the United Nations drift far away from the ideals and objectives it was designed to achieve.

One need look no further than one of its main bodies, the Human Rights Council, where just this past November, the U.N. General Assembly selected China, Russia, and my native homeland of Cuba--where my family and I were forced to flee Castro's Communist regime, and where terrible human rights violations have been occurring for over half a century.

This is the same organization where a rogue regime like Iran, that had no less than six U.N. Security Councils resolutions against it for its illicit nuclear program, was actually selected to chair a disarmament conference. Only in the U.N. would this happen.

It is the same organization that spends a great deal of time and effort adopting resolutions against our friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel, ignoring the brutality of the Assad regime and the crimes that it commits against the Syrian people.

Perhaps nowhere is this agenda more prevalent at the U.N. than at UNESCO, where in 2011 that entity allowed a nonexistent state of Palestine into its anti-American and anti-Israel organization.

This move triggered decades-old law in the United States that prohibits us from funding any agency at the U.N. that admits Palestine or any other nonrecognized organization into its membership. By recognizing Palestine at UNESCO, that entity is attempting to grant the Palestinian Authority a de facto recognition as a state before it works out a peace settlement with Israel, and it actually undermines the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The powers that be at UNESCO knew what they were doing when they did this, and they knew that there would be repercussions; yet they chose to test our mettle and our willingness to do the right thing, to stand by our ally and to stick to our principles and to stick to our U.S. laws.

For a time it appeared as though they may have been right. The administration has made no secret of its desire to seek a waiver to this prohibition in order to turn the money spigot back on for UNESCO. Not only does it wish to pay nearly $80 million in dues this year. No, but because it chose to remain in UNESCO rather than doing the prudent thing and withdrawing our membership, we have piled up hundreds of millions of dollars in arrears, late fees.

There has also been an appetite by some here in Congress to partially fund UNESCO and, in effect, turn a blind eye to this troublesome agenda, all for a designation that studies have shown has a minimal, if at all, economic benefit to the local site.

Luckily, Mr. Speaker, we have managed to stave off such a calamitous decision. Reversal of U.S. law on this issue would have set a dangerous example, and it would have shown the world that the U.S. lacks the courage of its convictions and will only do the easy thing when it comes to helping our ally, Israel.

But I know this won't be the last time that we will have to fight this battle, and I would urge my colleagues to not allow any partial funding or any waiver that would undermine our U.S. laws.

I would like to thank my House colleagues who did the right thing and prevented this grave mistake from occurring. We must fully enforce these laws and we must seek ways to leverage our assistance to the United Nations to force the reforms it needs or we have to seek ways to change the way in which we fund the United Nations.

Enough is enough, Mr. Speaker.


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