First UNESCO, then what?
U.S. delegation at the UNESCO proceedings.
October 31st, 2011
04:39 PM ET

First UNESCO, then what?

Editor's Note: Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth is President of the United Nations Foundation.

By Timothy Wirth, U.N. Dispatch

As the eyes of the world are focused on the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations in New York, another troubling chapter is unfolding in Paris. The United States is on the brink of abandoning its decades-long leadership in several international organizations – a process that will fundamentally undermine American national security and economic interests.

At issue are two laws from the early 1990s that prohibit the United States from providing financial contributions to any United Nations entity that admits Palestine as a member. The laws are strict: if Palestine is admitted to a U.N. agency, the United States must stop paying its membership dues. The restrictions provide no authority for the president to waive these prohibitions even if it is in the national interest to do so.

With a clear majority of countries around the world prepared to back Palestinian ambitions at the United Nations, the United States is poised to lose its leverage over several U.N. bodies that advance American interests and promote our ideals.