The total budget of the Toronto District School Board in Canada is six times larger than the UNESCO Annual Budget. Since the USA has withdrawn its budget contributions to UNESCO, an amount representing roughly 22 % of the total budget, the UNESCO budget has shrunk to around $500 million dollars. $500 million dollars for the United Nations organization with responsibility for education, science, culture for the world. The annual budget of the Toronto District School Board that has responsibility for the schooling of the children of the Greater Toronto area is roughly $3Billion. A further comparison shows that the UNESCO budget is about the same as the budget of the much smaller Vancouver School District in British Columbia.
Why is this? There has been much positive attention given to the work of the Education for All campaign over the past 20 years. The World Heritage Sites are popular and have proven to be economic drivers in every country where they exist. Conventions on Education for Sustainability, the protection of our Intangible Cultural Heritage, Social Responsibility of Higher Education, the status of the World’s Indigenous Languages and scores of critically important educational, peaceful, cultural, scientific and communications have been negotiated over the years and have the support of the 195 member state governments.
The UNESCO budgetary process has been worsened in recent years when the USA withdrew its funding because it was unhappy that Palestine had been accepted as a member state for some of the UNESCO functions. Israel objected as it normally does in all international spaces where Palestinian sovereignty is put forward. But even if the USA contributions were in place, the worlds body created in 1946 to build peace in the aftermath of war is shockingly underfunded. Does the fact that the governance and financial structure depend on national governments constrain our opportunities of working as global citizens together? Are governments against substantial working together on issues of learning, peace, sustainability and equity?
Rajesh and I share a UNESCO Chair. We are proud to do so. We are proud to be associated with the values of this organisation, but having moved more closely into the UNESCO ambit where we are seeing how constrained our collective global body is by senseless budget conditions, we ask the question, Why? Your thoughts most welcome.