Tag Archive | "UNESCO"

Politics over Peace: Waving Goodbye To UNESCO…Again

Photo Source: Christophe Petit Tesson—EPA/REX/Shutterstock

On October 12, 2017, the United States announced that it would withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”) effective December 21, 2018.[1] The United States cited anti-Israel bias at UNESCO as a reason for the decision, similar to President Reagan’s decision to exit UNESCO in late 1983.[2] The recent decision proves a trend with United States involvement with UNESCO – that it views its purpose as purely political, serving its strategic vision of liberalizing trade and spreading Western thought. However, the view within the membership that UNESCO is a political tool may not be unique to the United States.[3] 

The first and original strategic vision when the United States and thirty-six other nations created UNESCO as a human rights organization promoting education, science and cultural causes in November 1945, was the effort to “de-nazify” Europe and write history books.[4] Second, UNESCO was used to combat Communism during the Cold War, but anti-western criticism led to the first withdrawal of the United States. One reason was because UNESCO was advocating a “new information order” as a means of countering the power of the Western media.[5]

Once the Cold War ended, the U.S. did not rejoin UNESCO until the need came about in the post-9/11 era.[6] President Bush stated that the “…organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance, and learning.”[7] On the point of the Reagan-era concerns, Bush also cited “dramatic reform of UNESCO’s management structure, and a new dedication to freedom of the press.”[8]

In 2011, President Obama drastically cut funding for UNESCO as reprisal for the acceptance of Palestine as a member.[9] These cuts directly resulted in our current debt to the organization surpassing $500 million – yet another reason for President Trump’s decision.[10] In 2016, Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest after Arab nations secured support for a resolution denouncing Israel’s policies regarding religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.[11] This July, UNESCO declared the old city in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site, contrary to Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem, but consistent with Palestinians’ claims for a two-state solution.[12]

From a pure policy perspective, the United States may need to reconsider its exit from UNESCO because the best way to foster a stronger voting block is to work from within. Coupled with the increasing need for science and education to combat social media propaganda, the United States has compelling reasons to remain an active member. A contribution of roughly $500 million to UNESCO is very little for its $3.8 trillion annual expenditures.[13] The Denver Journal of Internal Law and Policy will continue to monitor the hyper-politicization of UNESCO.

 

Alex Mancero is a 2L JD candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a staff editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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[1] The United States Withdraws From UNESCO, U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/10/274748.htm (last visited Oct 26, 2017).

[2] Olivia B. Waxman, The U.S. Has Left UNESCO Before. Here’s Why Time, http://time.com/4980034/unesco-trump-us-leaving-history/ (last visited Oct 27, 2017).

[3] Israel recalls UNESCO ambassador in protest at Jerusalem resolutions, Reuters, October 26, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-unesco/israel-recalls-unesco-ambassador-in-protest-at-jerusalem-resolutions-idUSKCN12Q2HM (last visited Oct 27, 2017) (declaring UNESCO as hostile to Israelis because Arab members and their supporters frequently condemn Israel).

[4] Id.

[5] United States’ Return to UNESCO, 97 Am. J. Int’l L. 977, 978 (2003).

[6] Susan Tifft, Waving Goodbye to UNESCO, Time, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,952288,00.html (last visited Oct 31, 2017).

[7] Address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 38 Weekly Comp. Pres. Doc. 1529 (Sept. 16, 2002).

[8] United States’ Return to UNESCO, supra note 4, at 978.

[9] U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO, Again, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/11/u-s-to-pull-out-of-unesco-again/ (last visited Oct 27, 2017).

[10] Id.

[11] Israel recalls UNESCO ambassador in protest at Jerusalem resolutions, supra note 3.

[12][12] Id.

[13] Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go National Priorities Project, National Priorities Project, https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/ (last visited Oct 31, 2017).

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Loss of Culture: Can laws prevent the destruction of antiquities?  

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” – Elie Wiesel

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ISIS fighters destroy antiquities in Iraq. Courtesy of Chicago Tonight. hicagotonight.wttw.com/2015/03/10/destruction-antiquities-iraq

Over the course of human history, great and mighty civilizations have emerged, such as the Romans and Aztecs,
only to fall to plague, pestilence or conquest. However, the lasting effects of these civilizations are the archaeological sites and artifacts left behind. Artifacts, like the Rosetta Stone, the Terra Cotta Army, and the David, and ancient ruins, like Machu Picchu, the Coliseum, and the Great Wall of China, give the world insight into how ancient civilizations lived, and contribute to the future development of the human race. Through the discovery and preservation of artifacts such as these, the human race can continue to preserve ancient cultures and ensure that they may help shape the future of humanity.

Recent world events show a lack of regard for preserving these jewels of the past in the 21st century.  For example, the world was recently shocked by Islamic State’s destruction of ancient artifacts and archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq. This is not unprecedented, however, as this type of destruction happens all over the world; not just in the Middle East, but in South America, and China, and is attributable to numerous causes, including urban development and war.

The international community has attempted to ensure the integrity of the world’s cultural sites through the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and two international treaties: the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Culture and Natural Heritage, also knows the 1972 World Heritage Convention, created the World Heritage List allowing for archeological sites of “outstanding universal value” to be placed on a list that tries to keep the sites protected. For example, the Statute of Liberty, the Tower of London, and the city of Venice are just some of the sites on the World Heritage List. The World Heritage List also includes cites that are in danger, such as the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls.

Although these safe guards ensure archaeological sites and artifacts are recognized, and the conventions include sanctions which deter member States from breaching the conventions, it is the sovereign duty of each State to ensure that its archeological sites are protected. It is also the duty of each State to bring charges against parties that destroy or harm archaeological sites. In some cases, when a State does nothing to protect a site, or does not punish parties who destroy artifacts, the archeological artifact can be lost forever. Even though state parties to the above-mentioned treaties agree to protect their antiquities, the international community does not enforce its sanctions provisions against states who fail to protect. As of yet, no State has been brought before the International Court of Justice for a lack of protection. For example, China did little to protect artifacts when construction for an IKEA store unearthed an ancient tomb. Although China imposes a fine on companies who destroying ancient tombs, it does not enforce these law strongly, and as a result, an irreplaceable piece of history has been lost. The larger issue is that China was not brought before the ICJ for failure to protect in this case.

The larger issue is that state sovereignty protects most state decisions regarding antiquities. Also, under the treaty, only a State Party may bring a suit against another State Party for violation of a treaty or convention provision. Thus, the principally affected shareholders, like the existing Mayan populations in Belize whose ancestor’s pyramids were destroyed, have no avenue by which to make the State answer for its lack of protection. In most cases, States are able to pressure principally affected stakeholders into forgoing a public fight, likely due to lack of enforcement by the international community. For example, the 1972 World Heritage Convention only asks Party States to “endeavor, in so far as possible” to protect the culture of the State. These archeological sites and artifacts are the backbone of ancient civilizations, and in essence are owned by the people of the State and the existing decedents of those civilizations. Yet, principally affected stakeholder have no recourse to stop the destruction.

So what can be done?

A model that States can follow to ensure preservation of archeological sites and artifacts is that of the United States. The United States strives to ensure the rights to cultural sites and artifacts are given to decedents of the creating civilization. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of November 16, 1990 gives the right of ownership over human remains and sacred objects to Native American tribes, after certain requirements are met, such as showing a relationship of lineal descent. Likewise, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 protects the archaeological sites and resources of Native American lands. If other States follow a similar model as that of the United States, then the archeological sites and artifacts have a better chance of survival. Even if a State does everything to try and curb the destruction of archeological sites and artifacts, once destruction has occurred, the history, the memory, the civilizations are lost forever.

Teresa Milligan is a 2L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is Editor in Chief for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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