Palestine was admitted as a full member to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on October 31st (Sarah Dilorenzo, “Palestine becomes a full member of UN agency, despite U.S. objection, Globe and Mail, 31 October 2011).
In response, the U.S. government has withdrawn all funding to the organization (representing over 20% of the UNESCO budget), as required by a U.S. law passed in the 1990s.
The Canadian government has also expressed its opposition to the decision to admit Palestine as a member. “We are not happy with the decision UNESCO has made, and we have to look and see what we should do in response,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
In the end, however, perhaps cognizant of the fact that UNESCO is obliged to do what its member states tell it to do, the Canadian government chose not to “punish” the agency by withdrawing its regular funding.
Instead, in a decision apparently intended to demonstrate solidarity with the Israeli government, which opposed Palestinian membership, but minimize damage to the work that UNESCO does, the government announced that it would continue its regular contributions but not provide additional, “voluntary” funding to the agency (Robert Hiltz, “Canada axes voluntary funding to UNESCO,” Montreal Gazette, 1 November 2011). The decision does mean that Canada will not help to make up the budget shortfall caused by the withdrawal of U.S. funding.
The Palestinian Authority has also been seeking full membership in the UN General Assembly. Membership in the UNGA, however, requires agreement of 9 of the 15 Security Council members, with no vetoes from any of the council’s permanent members. The United States has declared its determination to exercise its veto on the issue, making Palestinian membership in the General Assembly exceptionally unlikely at present.