PARIS - US Secretary of State John Kerry pleaded Sunday for the United States to be re-elected to UNESCO's executive board, pledging to do his utmost to restore US funding to the UN cultural body "in full."
The United States and Israel in 2013 lost their UNESCO voting rights in the Paris-based UN agency's 195-member assembly, two years after suspending their financial contributions to the organisation over Palestinian membership.
But Washington is still a member of the executive board that oversees the general management of the UN body and in his speech, Kerry pleaded that the United States be re-elected in November despite owing tens of millions of dollars in unpaid dues.
"The United States has a great deal to contribute to UNESCO's work, and I assure you - our commitment to this organisation has never been stronger," Kerry said at the headquarters in the French capital.
"I know some of you have concerns - particularly related to our funding limitations - but it's important to note that even with these restrictions in place, the US plays a critical role in advancing UNESCO's objectives."
He laid out efforts made to counter extremism, announcing that the United States would help UNESCO launch an education initiative "to equip teachers and students with the skills and values to embrace tolerance and inclusion and resist violent extremism."
Kerry also pledged the United States would help in areas such as the destruction of heritage by extremist groups, the safety of journalists and the environment.
"In standing for re-election, both President (Barack) Obama and I are also pledging to work with our former colleagues in the US Congress, and do all we can to restore US funding to UNESCO in full," he said.
"And we have been candid about the fact that this will be much easier to accomplish if the United States retains its seat on the executive board." UNESCO chief Irina Bokova gave Kerry a show of support.
"We need you Secretary Kerry, we need the United States," she said in introductory remarks.