UNESCO Revokes U.S. Voting Rights

U.S. Voting Rights in UNESCO automatically revoked after America refuses to pay dues.

Alissandra Cummins (Front 2nd L), the Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board, and Irina Bokova (Front 3rd L), the General Director of UNESCO, attend the opening of the UNESCO 'Forum of leaders', on Nov. 6, 2013, in Paris.
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The U.S. international influence took a hit Friday, after the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization suspended America's voting rights in the council. 

UNESCO deals with the tasks of designating World Heritage sites, advancing global education, promoting press freedoms, among other actions that promote culture across the globe. 

Israel also lost its right to vote in the UNESCO council Friday. The suspensions stemmed from the U.S. and Israel's refusal to pay dues to the international organization since 2011, when UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member despite objections from both countries to Palestine's joining the organization. 

[READ: U.S. to Lose Vote at UNESCO and UNESCO Incurs Debts]

The U.S. saw UNESCO's decision to allow Palestine to become a member of its council as a step toward official recognition of Palestine as a nation, which the U.S. believes would greatly interfere with peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Israel and the U.S. had until Friday morning to resume funding or explain itself to UNESCO. According to AFP sources, neither the U.S.  nor Israel "presented the necessary documentation this morning to avoid losing their right to vote," causing them to automatically lose that  right. 

U.S. contributions alone made up 22 percent of UNESCO's budget. So when the U.S. and Israel withdrew their monetary support, UNESCO lost $240 million, Reuters news agency reports. The reduction put hundreds of people at UNESCO in peril of losing their jobs.

"I can't imagine how we could disengage with the United States at UNESCO," UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova told AP.  "We are so intertwined with our message. What I regret is that this decision became so divisive and triggered this suspension of the funding," she said of UNESCO's choice to make Palestine a member.

The U.S. still see's UNESCO's existence as a valuable organization in the promotion of peace and a "critical partner in creating a better future," the American ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, told Reuters news agency. "We intend to continue our engagement with UNESCO in every possible way," Killion said.  

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But the loss of voting power with this kind of influence is even concerning members of the Congress. 
"The United States must not voluntarily forfeit its leadership in the world community," Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., told The Associated Press.

"We won't be able to have the same clout," Phyllis Magrab, the Washington-based U.S. National Commissioner for UNESCO told CBS News. "In effect, we (now won't) have a full tool box. We're missing our hammer."

Other U.S. lawmakers worry about budget setbacks the UNESCO fees would have on the U.S. if it ever decides it wants to get back its vote. CBS news estimates the U.S. to be racking up a debt of $220,000 a day to UNESCO. 

"Paying off three years is manageable, but it indeed becomes much more difficult if you allow many years to pass and the bill gets larger and larger and larger," Esther Brimmer, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organizations told CBS News. 

But, the U.S.'s loss of voting rights in the UNESCO Council could have larger ramifications. There is a great concern that with the absence of an official voice of the U.S. in UNESCO, Arab nations will generate negative sentiments towards Israel, making a peace treaty between the conflicting nations almost impossible. 

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