Israel loses Unesco voting rights along with the US: UN source

PARIS (AFP) - The United States and Israel lost their Unesco voting rights on Friday after suspending funding to the organisation for its recognition of Palestine, a source from the United Nations agency told AFP.

Neither the United States nor Israel "presented the necessary documentation this morning to avoid losing their right to vote", the source said on condition of anonymity.

Both countries stopped paying their contributions to the global cultural agency after Palestine was made a Unesco member in 2011, provoking a major financial crisis at the agency and putting hundreds of jobs in jeopardy.

Under Unesco rules, the US and Israel had until Friday to pay their dues or automatically lose voting rights.

US contributions represented 22 per cent of the agency's overall budget.

With the US and Israel withdrawing their contributions, Unesco's budget fell from US$653 million (S$813.7 million) to US$507 million.

The reduced budget means some 300 people at Unesco are in danger of losing their jobs. In 2012 the UN agency employed 1,200 people at its headquarters in Paris and 900 around the world.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, who was re-elected in October, raised US$75 million in a bid to deal with the agency's financial crisis.

"The list of countries that will lose their voting rights will be announced probably tomorrow (Saturday) in a plenary session," the same Unesco source said.

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