Mordaunt threatens to pull Unesco funding

14 Nov 18

The UK could follow Donald Trump’s lead and stop funding Unesco, the UN’s cultural and education body, saving £11.1m a year.

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt reportedly told Cabinet colleagues that she wants to pull funding from Unesco, saying it bad value for money, according to the Daily Telegraph.

But some of her colleagues are concerned that such a move would damage the UK’s reputation.

US president Trump cut funding to the UN body last year and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu followed, citing anti-Israel bias. 

Priti Patel, the former international development secretary, proposed to end Unesco funding two years ago but the plan was vetoed by prime minister Theresa May.

Mordaunt will consult with other departments on her suggestion.

In February, Mordaunt said the UK would withhold funding from the UN if it does not reform, after accusations of employee sexual misconduct emerged.

The opposition Labour party objected to the plan. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said in a piece for The Guardian: “For Mordaunt to blame concerns over Unesco’s finances… is not only to take the public for fools but also a surprisingly cowardly move for a minister who is usually willing to speak her mind.”

She added that the UK would be “walking away” Britain’s “own heritage”, referring to British politicians who helped develop Unesco at a conference in London in 1945.

A spokesperson from the Department for International Development said: “There has been no change to our funding commitment to Unesco.

“The UK is working closely with Unesco and other member states to ensure it makes crucial reforms to deliver the best results and value for taxpayers’ money.”

There are 31 UK sites on Unesco’s World Heritage List including Stonehenge, the English Lake District, Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

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