CHICAGO – The Council of the American Library Association (ALA) recently passed a resolution urging Congress to approve a national interest waiver, so the United States can again pay its dues to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and become a fully functioning UNESCO member.
The resolution, adopted Jan. 29 at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, states that ALA policy recognizes the importance of membership for the development of libraries in the United States and around the world. It also recognizes that UNESCOfocuses on the advancement of values that are in alignment with the ALA.
These values include promotion and advancement of education around the world, freedom of expression, including a free and open Internet and media sector, the sharing of scientific knowledge and cultural understanding through the preservation of world heritage and intercultural dialogue.
The ALA objected to the United States withdrawal from UNESCO in 1984 and commended President George W. Bush for returning the United States to full membership in October 2002. But Congress halted funding to UNESCO in late 2011 after the agency admitted Palestine into its membership, since U.S. law requires the United States to cut off funds to any United Nations agency that recognizes Palestine as a full member.
However, the State Department has requested Congress approve a national interest waiver that will allow the U.S. to keep its vote in UNESCO and advocate for shared values globally through full participation in UNESCO projects. If dues are not paid, the United States will lose its vote at the next General Conference of UNESCO in fall 2013.
The cessation of United States funding has created a significant deficit in UNESCO’S budget, resulting in either canceling or jeopardizing countless programs that improve people’s lives.
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with 58,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.