Waving Goodbye to UNESCO

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"UNESCO has been emptying key Western concepts of their meaning," says Owen Harries, a former Australian Ambassador to UNESCO. The organization has spent some $750,000 for East-bloc "peace and disarmament" initiatives, which the U.S. considers little more than a subsidy for Soviet propaganda. On the other hand, it has spent only $32,000 for the education of refugees.

UNESCO was the only U.N. agency to increase its budget last year. In the past ten years the agency's two-year spending budgets ballooned from $165.1 million to $374.4 million. Under a dues formula that takes into account a member country's population and G.N.P., the U.S. pays a whopping 25% of the tab. Says U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick: "The countries which have the votes don't pay the bill, and those who pay the bill don't have the votes." Last year the U.S. was the only country to vote against UNESCO's original request for an inflation-adjusted hike of 6% in its budget as well as the final compromise increase of 4%.

The Administration was rankled fur ther by what UNESCO bought with its money: a bloated bureaucracy with a taste for the good life. Despite UNESCO'S stated concern for the Third World, few of its staff are deployed there. Indeed, 2,428 of its 3,380 employees work in the comfortable confines of the Paris headquarters, ,where a mid-level bureaucrat's salary is about $2,500 a month, tax free. Some staffers are better connected than qualified: the important post of personnel director went to Serge Vieux, the cousin of M'Bow's wife.

A final irritant was the autocratic M'Bow, who, according to Western members, pandered to Third World interests in hopes of some day getting enough votes to become U.N. Secretary-General.

Says Harries: "Apart from being an extraordinarily biased man, M'Bow is temperamentally confrontationalist and combative."

Last June, when Gerard and New ell met with him in Paris to protest UNESCO's budget, M'Bow reportedly responded by accusing the U.S. of racism.

The decision to leave drew cheers from unexpected corners: the liberal New York Times and the Washington Post. Overseas there was sympathy for the U.S. move but no rush to follow suit. Declared for mer French Minister for Cooperation Jean-Pierre Cot: "This gesture reeks of isolationism."

By week's end Shultz had sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar reassuring him that the UNESCO withdrawal did not presage a wider U.S. disengagement from the U.N. or its oth er agencies. At UNESCO, which stands to lose both money and prestige because of the action, M'Bow was uncommonly subdued.

"This is an incredible shock to UNESCO," said one agency veteran. "After all, a U.N.

organization can't function effectively very long without the participation of the richest country on earth." For better or worse, that is probably true, which suggests that no matter how vexing UNESCO has become, the U.S. might better serve world affairs by keeping its membership and trying to improve the organization from within.

There is little reason to believe that UNESCO, left on its own, will improve itself.

— By Susan Tifft.

Reported by William Blaylock/Paris and Johanna McGeary/ Washington

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