The United States takes the floor to explain our “no” vote and to express our deep regret that, despite the momentum of goodwill shared among Member States throughout this Executive Board, we were once again presented with this highly politicized agenda item, which was even more inflammatory than previous items.
We do appreciate the removal of some of the most highly problematic language, including some of the draft text related to the Old City of Jerusalem and its sacred sites. We know that the removal of this draft text came about as a result of the constructive engagement of many Member States and the Director-General, who recognize that UNESCO must adhere closely to its mandate, be judicious in not escalating tensions, and respect the interests and histories of all parties. We only wish that all of our fellow Board members would reach the same conclusion we have – that even with some modifications, these resolutions remain unacceptable and do not further the mandate and standing of UNESCO.
As we have said before, these are difficult issues – but harsh and inflammatory resolutions only distract from the positive work of UNESCO, running counter to the principles of the Organization, and calling into question the credibility of this Body and its efforts to foster peace and promote innovative global cooperation in education, science, and culture.
Regarding the current situation, the United States shares the deep concern of everyone here about the situation in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. We have repeatedly condemned this violence and made clear there is no justification for any terrorist attack. We mourn the loss of all life, Israeli and Palestinian, and call on all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm. Preventing violence requires leaders who are willing to make tough decisions and commit to negotiations with the utmost intent to achieve lasting peace. These politicized resolutions at UNESCO do nothing to facilitate the atmosphere needed to achieve this urgently needed commitment.
At a time when the Organization is taking important steps to promote implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, help counter violent extremism through education, embrace innovation through public-private partnerships, and promote the protection of cultural heritage in danger, this type of unbalanced approach to political issues weakens the perception of UNESCO as a collaborative, peacebuilding body and undermines UNESCO’s core competencies. Moreover, it complicates how we communicate the value and importance of this Organization to our respective key domestic constituencies.
Going forward, we urge all Member States to adopt a more cooperative and constructive approach that furthers the mandate and values of UNESCO.