Our Views: Poverty Point and diplomacy

A move to grant special recognition to a historical treasure in north Louisiana has, oddly enough, become entangled in the politics of the Middle East.

Poverty Point, a Native American landmark in West Carroll Parish, was nominated for a spot on the World Heritage List, an international roster of sites that have profound significance in world history. UNESCO, a cultural agency operated by the United Nations, administers the list.

Poverty Point includes earthen mounds presumably built by Native Americans at least 3,000 years ago. A decision on whether to include Poverty Point on the list is scheduled for next year. But the United States cut funding to UNESCO after Palestine was allowed to join the organization. Congress has banned U.S. funding to U.N. bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached. If the United States continues to deny funding to UNESCO, then U.S. membership in the cultural agency could lapse.

Theoretically, Poverty Point’s candidacy for inclusion on the World Heritage list could continue even if the United States is no longer a member of UNESCO.

But if the United States is no longer a voting member of UNESCO, then Poverty Point’s chances of obtaining World Heritage status could suffer. The designation is significant because it’s an important driver of tourism, which would be helpful in economically distressed West Carroll Parish.

Obviously, Poverty Point’s involvement in the World Heritage list shouldn’t be the guiding factor in U.S. foreign policy. But we hope that this diplomatic intrigue includes a happy ending for Poverty Point, a historical treasure that deserves international acclaim.