The Director General of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, has appealed to its general conference in Nairobi to avoid a bitter confrontation over press freedom and Israel.
GV EXTERIOR: Kenyatta conference centre, Nairobi, Kenya.
GV INTERIOR: delegates seated.
GVS: UNESCO Director General M'Bow addressing conference (French) over shots of delegates from various countries.
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Background: The Director General of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, has appealed to its general conference in Nairobi to avoid a bitter confrontation over press freedom and Israel.
SYNOPSIS: In the Kenyan capital on Wednesday (27 October), Director General Ahmadou Mahtar M'Bow, from Senegal, said UNESCO had been embroiled in controversy for two years over hostility by communist, Arab and Third World countries towards Israel. In 1974 the organisation voted Israel out of its European Group membership.
Monsieur M'Bow told the conference that Israel had agreed to allow a UNESCO mission to visit occupied Arab lands early next year. He called the move a positive one and praised Israel for its new attitude. Israel was barred from the UNESCO European Regional Committee on the grounds that it was defacing Moslem monuments in Jerusalem during archaeological diggings. UNESCO also cut off aid. In retaliation, the United States withheld 38,000 U.S. dollars (GBP 24,000 sterling) in dues. Monsieur M'Bow said the U.S. action had damaged UNESCO, and threatened its survival.
Although Israel has now agreed to the UNESCO mission, the United States gave no indication that it would now pay the outstanding contributions. However, Monsieur M'Bow said the visit may help defuse the issue. The mission will study the educational and cultural situation in the occupied Arab lands and recommend how UNESCO can help the Arab people there. Turning to the press freedom issue, the Director General said that UNESCO had been wrongly accused of supporting state control of the media. Rejecting the charge -- from the United States -- he said UNESCO reaffirmed the need to guarantee freedom of expression. However, the United States attacked a Soviet-inspired resolution for member states to be responsible for the international activities of new organisations operating from their territories.