UNESCO Approves Palestinian Membership; US Faces Decision
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch on 31/10/2011 @ 9:22 pm
Members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today approved Palestine as a member state, a move expected to force the United States to choose between withdrawal from UN agencies including the World Intellectual Property Organization, or removing a national law preventing the US from funding and participating in any organization with Palestine as a member.
The vote was 107 votes in favour of admission and 14 votes against, with 52 abstentions, according to UNESCO. Palestine must now sign and ratify UNESCO’s constitution. When it does so, it will automatically be able to join WIPO and other UN agencies. Questions arise for US involvement in the World Health Organization and International Telecommunication Union (which decides global spectrum use among other things).
US withdrawal is expected to hurt UNESCO’s funding but not WIPO’s, which is funded mostly by fees for its services. The biggest loss would likely be for the United States, which risks US leadership and participation in global decision-making bodies (IPW, United Nations, 21 October 2011 ).
The UNESCO announcement is here .
[Update:] the Inter Press Service had a blog post yesterday  explaining some of the underlying politics of the US decision to immediately suspend its payment of dues to UNESCO.
The US State Department released this statement below today, following a meeting with key US technology companies, confirming the potentially negative impact on US participation at WIPO:
Office of the Spokesperson
October 31, 2011
Question: Did the State Department brief business representatives on UNESCO’s decision to admit Palestine as a full member?
Answer: Today senior USG officials from State and the US Patent and Trademark Office briefed representatives from leading U.S. industries on today’s vote at UNESCO and the implications that vote might have for Palestinian accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
During the meeting, Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer underscored U.S. concern that Palestinian membership in WIPO could have serious implications for U.S. leadership in this organization, which supports the global IPR infrastructure and helps U.S. companies protect their intellectual property around the world. The United States is a leading global voice on issues related to patent, copyright, and trademark matters, and should the U.S. be unable to provide its contributions to WIPO, the impact of that voice could be significantly diminished.
In attendance were representatives from a wide range of U.S. businesses and industries, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Software Alliance, and United States Council for International Business. The State Department will also brief a number of civil society groups, including NGO’s with a particular interest in UNESCO.
The State Department also released this general statement:
Palestinian Admission to UNESCO
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
October 31, 2011
Today’s vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is regrettable, premature, and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East. The United State remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state, but such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The United States also remains strongly committed to robust multilateral engagement across the UN system. However, Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers longstanding legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO.
U.S. engagement with UNESCO serves a wide range of our national interests on education, science, culture, and communications issues. The United States will maintain its membership in and commitment to UNESCO and we will consult with Congress to ensure that U.S. interests and influence are preserved.
Article printed from Intellectual Property Watch: http://www.ip-watch.org
URL to article: http://www.ip-watch.org/2011/10/31/unesco-approves-palestinian-membership-us-faces-decision/
URLs in this post:
 IPW, United Nations, 21 October 2011: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2011/10/21/palestinian-membership-in-unesco-could-raise-questions-for-us-wipo/
 UNESCO announcement is here: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/general_conference_admits_palestine_as_unesco_member_state/
 blog post yesterday: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=105666