National

Japan holding back payment to UNESCO

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Japan is facing an uphill battle in its attempt to wield influence at UNESCO.

The government confirmed Friday that it has not paid Japan’s ¥3.85 billion contribution to the U.N. body this year in an apparent effort to push for reforms of the Memory of the World program, which registered China’s “Documents of Nanjing Massacre” last year.

It is mandatory for members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to pay the fees.

Japan usually pays its dues in the spring, but Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday the largest contributor to UNESCO’s budget after the U.S. has not paid up after comprehensively considering the situation at the body.

A Foreign Ministry official said it is not the first time Japan has not released the funds in the spring and it is looking at when is the best time to pay by monitoring various UNESCO activities.

While the government has not so far specified its reasons, its failure to pay comes amid mounting criticism against the Memory of the World program, which registered documents related to the 1937 Nanking Massacre last year. The city is now known as Nanjing.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said last year that the government considered whether to suspend the payment after the program registered the documents without considering Japan’s opinion during the selection process.

Subsequently, former education minister Hiroshi Hase met with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in Paris and she reportedly admitted a lack of transparency at the Memory of World program.

Although reforms have been mulled at UNESCO since then, Japan could face another setback in terms of its wartime historical issues.

In June, a private organization whose members include Japan, China and South Korea, sought to register documents related to the “comfort women” issue with the same program.

Upon being informed about the application to register the documents, Suga said the government will push for reforms at UNESCO so that member countries will not be able to take political advantage of the organization, whose mission is to promote friendship and mutual understanding among its members.

Becoming a member of UNESCO was regarded as Japan’s official comeback to the international community following World War II, and if it fails to pay its dues for two consecutive years, the nation could lose its voting rights at UNESCO’s biennial general assembly, scheduled to be held next fall.

The U.S. currently has no voting rights after Washington, which is supposed to be responsible for 22 percent of UNESCO’s overall budget, has failed to pay money since 2013 as a protest against Palestine’s membership of the organization.

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