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US may shut down Afghan mapping

US: The US State sent an unofficial memo to key congressional offices titled, “How the Loss of U.S. Funding Will Impact Important Programs at UNESCO.” The memo, which was passed to The Cable by a congressional source, argued that UNESCO programmes will have to be cut back severely due to the loss of US funding. One of them is Afghan mapping initiative.

Detailed knowledge of the geography of the mountains of Afghanistan has obvious implications for the security and environmental stability of the Afghan state.  The US Geological Survey provided USD 117,000 to UNESCO in 2011 for the first round of training designed to build capacity in geo-informatics for Afghan Geodesy and Cartography Head Office staff.   Additional rounds of training had been planned by all parties, though the source of funding had yet to be identified. The cut-off in US funding will suspend this promising programme.

However, the State Department is still trying to convince Congress to restore funding for UNESCO, which was cut off after the UN cultural agency’s members granted full membership to the Palestinians — but there is little chance lawmakers will change the provision preventing US funding.

State Department spokespeople have said they are working with Congress in the hopes of amending the laws that cut off US funds to any UN organisation that admits Palestine as a full member, but there is broad bipartisan support for the funding cut-offs and no real congressional effort to change the law.

“The cut-off in US funding may not directly affect extra-budgetary programs funded by other donors, but it will weaken UNESCO’s presence in the field and undermine its ability to take on and manage such projects and programmes,” the memo stated.

UNESCO will lose USD 240 million of funding for fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013 — roughly 22 percent of its budget — and will have to scale down programmes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and South Sudan, the memo added.

The memo also listed several ways that UNESCO supports US national security interests. These include “sustaining the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring” and democratic values around the world, promoting nation-building in South Sudan, and encouraging Holocaust education in the Middle East and Africa.

The US assessment funds 22 percent of the UNESCO regular budget. For the 2012-2013 biennium budget of USD 653 million, UNESCO will lose USD 160 million (USD 144 million plus another approximately USD12 million to cover currency conversions, for a total of about USD 80 million per year). More immediately, it will lose the US dues owed for 2011 – USD 80 million — which the US had not yet paid at the time of the cutoff. Thus, UNESCO will begin the new budget biennium on January 1, 2012, with a total shortfall of approximately USD 240M for 2011, 2012 and 2013.  

Source: thecable.foreignpolicy.com