After UNESCO Palestine vote, could US defund nuclear watchdog IAEA, too?
The US withdrew funding after UNESCO's Palestine vote yesterday. There's no reason that Palestinians won't be able to muster the votes for recognition in other UN agencies like the International Atomic Energy Agency.
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The UN culture and education agency was immediately defunded by the US, which was due to contribute $80 million to the organization this year, a little more than one-fifth of the UN body's budget. The Obama administration's decision was triggered by a 1994 US law that requires financial ties to be cut with any UN agency that accords the Palestinians full membership.
On its face, this may not seem a big deal for America. Ronald Reagan pulled the US out of UNESCO in 1984, and the country only rejoined in the fall of 2002 under George W. Bush, as his administration was courting UN support for military action against Iraq.
But the law that saw the US pull out of UNESCO would apply equally to any other UN agency – whether the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which plays a key role in monitoring nuclear proliferation in states like Iran, or the World Health Organization, where the US and other states intensively coordinate international efforts to deal with public health threats.
And under UN rules, membership into the World Intellectual Property Organization would be more or less automatic at this point if the Palestinians pursue it. The WIPO has been strongly supported by the US, seeking to curb piracy of US movies and software.
Palestinian leaders say they're methodically seeking to enter other UN agencies, though are likely to go slowly in the coming weeks. The probable next target would be the WHO.
“We are working on it, one by one," said Ibrahim Khraishi, a Palestinian official at the UN in Geneva, in remarks quoted by the Associated Press today. "It’s now precedent that we are a full member in one of the biggest and one of the most important UN agencies, UNESCO. So it will open the door for us now to go further.”