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Syed Akbaruddin pledges India’s ‘steadfast support’ to poorer countries

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United Nations: India’s newly-minted Permanent Representative, Syed Akbaruddin,on Tuesday, pledged India’s steadfast support to poorer countries on issues that matters to them and said it would  give them special consideration.

Speaking at a meeting of the Group of 77, he said: “India will be resolute in pushing for developing country’s unity and will spare no effort to give special consideration to the interests of our brothers and sisters from LDCs (Least Developed Countries), SIDS (Small Island Developing States) and LLDCs (Land-locked Developing  Countries). They can count on our steadfast support on issues of concern to them.”

Group of 77 or G-77 is the largest inter-governmental organization at the UN and it  advocates for its economic interests and promotes cooperation among the  members. From 77 members at its founding in 1964, it has grown to 134  members. The meeting was held here for the ceremonial transfer of the chairmanship of the organization of developing countries from South Africa to Thailand.

Referring to Agenda 2030, the ambitious program of sustainable  development goals adopted at the UN summit last September, Akbaruddin said, “If 2015 was a year of negotiation and deliberation, 2016 should be a time of consolidation and implementation.”

Asserting that the focus during the implementation phase should be on the priorities and needs of the developing countries, he said, “The  founding principles of the Group of 77 — equity, solidarity and unity, rooted as they are in our collective aspiration to help our people  achieve a life of dignity — are even more relevant.”

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said his chairmanship’s priority would be pushing for the effective implementation of Agenda 2030. “In  line with our theme, we will seek to pursue inclusive development, allowing for the active involvement of all stakeholders,” he said.

He added that it was important to ensure that the “commitments made by  developed countries to developing countries are duly honored”.

India redoubled its outreach to small island developing countries and  land-locked developing countries. Last year, it hosted the second summit of the 14-nation Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) in Jaipur and New Delhi. India announced enhanced wide-ranging cooperation, including in space and information and communications technology. (Arul Louis, IANS)

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Claiming Bias, U.S.A. And Israel Pull Out Of UNESCO

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

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The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen druing a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017. VOA

The United States and Israel officially quit of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.

The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.

The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.

The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Image Source: www.mid-day.com

The U.S. has demanded “fundamental reform” in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state. Since then officials estimate that the U.S. — which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget — has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. Israel owes an estimated $10 million.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.

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Migrants wait in line for food at a camp housing hundreds of people who arrived at the U.S. border from Central America with the intention of applying for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

Officials say that many of the reasons the U.S. cited for withdrawal do not apply anymore, noting that since then, all 12 texts on the Middle East passed at UNESCO have been consensual among Israel and Arab member states.

In April of this year, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO said the mood was “like a wedding” after member nations signed off on a rare compromise resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” and UNESCO diplomats hailed a possible breakthrough on longstanding Israeli-Arab tensions.

The document was still quite critical of Israel, however, and the efforts weren’t enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

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Israel Flag, Pixabay

The State Department couldn’t comment because of the U.S. government shutdown. Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

Also Read: Israel Unanimously Approves Medical Marijuana Exports

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003. (VOA)