UNESCO and US national security, at LobeLog

Destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, by ISIS, sometime over this past summer. ISIS destroys only what it can’t sell. (Wikimedia)

The United States hasn’t paid its UNESCO dues (which had made up over a fifth of UNESCO’s overall funding) since 2011, when the organization admitted Palestine as a member state and thereby triggered a couple of obscure Foreign Relations Authorization Act provisions (from 1990 and 1994) that require the government to stop sending money to any UN organization that admits the Palestinians. I suppose the specter of Palestinians being treated as complete human beings on matters of science and cultural preservation is just too great a threat to Israeli national security to be countenanced. Anyway, while I happen to think that UNESCO is a very worthwhile institution that should be supported anyway, defunding them looks especially bad in hindsight. See, they’re arguably the most important of the handful of international organizations fighting to curb the illicit trade in cultural artifacts, a trade that has become a nifty little funding stream for ISIS. It’s time to revisit those 2 decade old laws and restore funding to UNESCO (and, along with it, a little sanity to US foreign policy). My “latest” (OK, it went up on October 8) for LobeLog has more:

UNESCO works with its member states to curtail the illicit trade in artifacts by raising public awareness of the problem and by developing legal mechanisms for tracking looted artifacts and settling disputes over their repatriation. But its most important programs are its capacity-building efforts, working with government officials to establish procedures for preventing and interdicting the black market trade in antiquities and then training national customs officers and law-enforcement personnel in implementing those procedures. UNESCO has been actively working to hinder the trade in antiquities looted from both Syria and Iraq, or, in other words, the antiquities trade that is currently helping to finance the Islamic State. But all of UNESCO’s work in this area has suffered considerably due to the loss of the substantial portion of its annual budget that the United States once provided.

This piece went up while I was out of town and I just forgot to do my usual self-promotional work here at the blog. I promise it’s still relevant a whole 11 days later. Please go read it!

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