18 November 2011

TL rejects US rejection of UNESCO

Timor-Leste is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the United States is of the richest. Nevertheless, Timor-Leste's Parliament voted yesterday to defy United States policy on Palestine, making a special contribution to UNESCO to partially compensate for the U.S. cancellation of its contribution to the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization, whose budget had been 22% financed by the United States. The U.S. stopped funding in response to UNESCO's 107-14 vote on 31 October to accept Palestine as a full member.  

Timor-Leste's Parliament is currently debating the country's State Budget for 2012. During the debate on 17 November, MP Aniceto Guterres, leader of the opposition Fretilin party, proposed to add $1.5 million to the $1.76 billion budget as a contribution to UNESCO. Guterres explained that the agency is facing a financial crisis because the U.S. cancelled their support because the agency accepted Palestine.

During the debate on the amendment, some MPs expressed concerns about the political implications of repudiating U.S. policy. They emphasized that this support should be seen as a gesture of solidarity, and should not drag Timor-Leste into the political conflict facing the agency. Proponents clarified that the proposal is intended to give financial support to UNESCO, because UNESCO and other UN agencies supported TL's struggle for independence. Timor-Leste's Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres (former Timor-Leste Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N.) and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed and appreciated the proposal as gesture of solidarity, and the amendment was approved with 34 votes in favor, five opposed and 15 abstentions.

Debate on the budget will continue for another week, and more information is on La'o Hamutuk's website. Timor-Leste's Constitution states that the nation "shall extend its solidarity to the struggle of the peoples for national liberation."

1 comment:

  1. Good on Timor-Leste Parliament for doing this. Hopefully other countries in a far better financial position than Timor will follow their lead to make up UNESCO's shortfall. Sadly, Australia followed the US vote against Palestinian membership of UNESCO. I don't know how the politics will work here right now, but we in Australia should be encouraging Australia to boost its UNESCO commitment.