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Kerry Pushes for US Role on UNESCO Board Despite Owing Dues

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he delivers a speech to UNESCO Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates at the UNESCO headquarter in Paris, Oct. 18, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday lobbied for the United States to be re-elected to UNESCO's board, promising to work with Congress to restore funding after Washington cut off its contributions in protest over the Palestinians being admitted as full members.

The United States and Israel in 2013 lost their UNESCO voting rights in the Paris-based U.N .agency's 195-member assembly, two years after suspending their financial contributions to the organization.

But Washington is still a member of the executive board that oversees the general management of the U.N .body and in his speech, Kerry pleaded that the United States be re-elected in November despite owing tens of millions of dollars in unpaid dues.

"The United States has a great deal to contribute to UNESCO's work, and I assure you – our commitment to this organisation has never been stronger," Kerry said at the headquarters in the French capital.

"I know some of you have concerns – particularly related to our funding limitations – but it's important to note that even with these restrictions in place, the U.S. plays a critical role in advancing UNESCO's objectives."

Before pulling financial support for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United States provided about 22 percent of its annual budget. It is currently $300 million in arrears to UNESCO.


U.S. law prohibits it from providing contributions to international organizations that recognize Palestinian statehood.

The Obama administration has unsuccessfully tried to persuade Congress to restore the funding for several years.

Kerry laid out efforts made to counter extremism, announcing that the United States would help UNESCO launch an education initiative "to equip teachers and students with the skills and values to embrace tolerance and inclusion and resist violent extremism."

Kerry also pledged the United States would help in areas such as the destruction of heritage by extremist groups, the safety of journalists and the environment.

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