U.S. Ends 18-Year Abandonment of UNESCO. (Columns)

By Drinan, Robert F. | National Catholic Reporter, October 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

U.S. Ends 18-Year Abandonment of UNESCO. (Columns)


Drinan, Robert F., National Catholic Reporter


When President Bush announced at the United Nations that the United States was returning to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, it was a triumph for countless educational and religious groups who have protested America's departure from that organization in 1984.

The Charter of UNESCO, established in 1945, opens with this incisive observation: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." To carry out this objective, UNESCO hopes to attain universal primary school enrollment and 90 percent adult literacy by the year 2015. UNESCO also emphasizes freedom of the press and dialogue between clashing cultures.

The reason for the abandonment of UNESCO by the United States was alleged maladministration of the agency. But the real reason was the disinterest of the Reagan administration in international cooperation. Bush's announcement about America's return to UNESCO anticipated action by Congress to return to the agency.

The 18-year absence of the United States from UNESCO caused a general increase in the dues of the other 188 member nations and a vast deterioration of the services that UNESCO could furnish. The budget now is about $400 million a year.

The Vatican has had a permanent observer status at UNESCO almost since its beginning. The Vatican is also a party to four UNESCO regional covenants. On May 10, Pope John Paul II warmly greeted friends of UNESCO in Rome on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Office of Permanent Observer of the Holy See to UNESCO.

The resumption of relations with UNESCO has to be said to signify a change in the disregard, if not the disdain, that America has had in recent years for the United Nations. The cost of UNESCO will be a miniscule 24 cents each year for every American.

The United States is increasingly perceived around the world as generally hostile to the United Nations. It withheld its dues from the United Nations for several years. …

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