UNESCO won't take on any new projects until the end of the year, an official said Thursday, after the US pulled its substantial contributions from the UN cultural agency to protest its acceptance of Palestine as a member.
Any projects already committed to will be carried out, the official said. No decisions have been made about how the organization will proceed next year.
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Israel suspends PA funds, UNESCO fees
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
In a dramatic vote last month, Palestine won full membership at the agency, part of its push to win greater international recognition amid despair at the slow progress of peace negotiations with Israel.
After the measure passed, the room erupted in cheers, but reality quickly set in.
UNESCO members celebrate PA's accession (Photo: EPA)
UNESCO, which protects historic heritage sites and works to improve literacy, access to schooling for girls and cultural understanding, is clearly scrambling after the loss of its biggest donor. Canada and Israel have also pulled funding, though they donate far less.
The US typically provides one-fifth of the agency's annual budget – some $80 million, three-quarters of which it hadn't yet handed over for this year and won't.
On Wednesday, Director-General Irina Bokova laid out a series of proposals for how the organization might make up for the loss.
Among them was the launch of an emergency fund to solicit donations from foundations and individuals as well as members. A bright orange button calling on visitors to "Donate NOW!" was already on the organization's website Thursday.
The official said the agency would also tap its reserve fund – $30 million set aside to weather such storms. Bokova is asking for that fund to be increased to $65 million. She also asked members to pay their 2012 dues as early as possible.
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