66 years ago today,the Charter of the United Nations officially entered into force and the United Nations was born. Ever since, October 24 has been commemorated as UN Day. So, happy UN Day, everyone!
The thing is, it is something of a less than happy UN Day here in the United States. That’s because the USA seems poised to abandon several UN agencies due to a quirk in American law from the mid 1990s that stipulates that the USA must withdraw from any UN agencies to which the Palestinians become members. It would appear that UNESCO is poised to admit the Palestinians, ergo the USA must withdraw.
In a fortuitously timed op-ed in the LA Times today, UN Foundation President Senator Timothy Worth explains why this legislative set-up is a disaster for American interests.
Alongside its important functions facilitating peace and cooperation among nations and helping to conserve the world’s cultural heritage, UNESCO is also good for American business. Through the organization, American companies such as Cisco, Intel and Microsoft have been introduced to expanding Third World markets hungry for high-tech products, and that facilitation by UNESCO has helped to create or retain thousands of American jobs.
UNESCO also does work that protects the lives and safety of U.S. citizens. For example, it was a tsunami warning system coordinated by UNESCO that alerted Californians to a possible tsunami following Japan’s devastating earthquake in March. The organization also supports U.S. national security by teaching literacy skills to Afghan citizens who will be taking over security functions when allied forces leave the country.
Because Palestinian membership in UNESCO would trigger its acceptance into the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United States would also have to give up participation in that group, which plays a key role in the international safeguarding of intellectual property, including the vast range of patents, copyrights and trademarks belonging to U.S. companies and individuals.
Lest you think that recognition of UNESCO’s crucial role is a partisan issue, it’s not. Not only is President Obama a strong UNESCO supporter; it was President George W. Bush who led the U.S. effort to rejoin UNESCO in 2003, and former First Lady Laura Bush remains a goodwill ambassador for the organization.
It is clear that whatever happens at UNESCO, Palestinians will continue to seek membership in the U.N.’s many specialized agencies. And each time they succeed, the United States will have to resign from another world body, thereby losing influence and input on international issues. We might no longer be able to participate in decisions about how nuclear weapons and nuclear fuel stockpiles are safeguarded around the world by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or decisions about how people are protected during pandemic outbreaks by the World Health Organization, or about how international food supplies are kept safe from disease and terrorism by the Food and Agriculture Organization.