An American Paradox: Liberal Ideals and McCarthyism at UNESCO

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton)
Jens Boel, UNESCO
International civil servants should share the vision of their organizations. It is loyalty to this vision that ensures the integrity and international outlook of international civil servants (…) It cannot be too strongly stressed that international civil servants are not, in any sense, representatives of Governments or other entities, nor are they proponents of their policies” (ICSC: Standards of Conduct for International Civil Service, Guiding Principles),

US representatives played a decisive role in the drafting of the UNESCO Constitution in 1945. The Constitution emphasized that responsibilities of UNESCO staff should be exclusively international in character and that “in the discharge of their duties they shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any authority external to the Organization”. Nevertheless, at the height of McCarthyism the US government requested the Director-General (a US citizen himself) to dismiss seven US citizens who served UNESCO as international civil servants because they refused to submit to a "loyalty" investigation and thereby allegedly created “reasonable doubt” as to their loyalty to the United States. The Director-General, Luther Evans, gave in to this demand and fired the accused professionals in spite of their irreproachable service and loyalty to the Organization. The dismissal of these seven US staff was maintained although it was judged illegal by the ILO Administrative Tribunal, a judgment confirmed by the International Court of Justice.

This paper will present and analyse the context, process and wider perspective of these events. It will also include the “eighth case” of Julian Behrstock, where Luther Evans declined to follow the request for dismissal from US authorities because Behrstock had actually accepted to testify, although only on him-self, not on others.

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