U.S. withdraws from UNESCO

Jonathan Hernandez
October 13, 2017

Britain has confirmed its continued commitment to membership of Unesco after the U.S. announced it was withdrawing from the United Nations cultural body.

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the US owes UNESCO.

It says the withdrawal will take effect December 31, 2018. Unesco was dependent on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, then about $70 million a year.

UNESCO was once a low-profile United Nations agency best known for producing a list of World Heritage sites such as the Grand Canyon or Cambodia's Angkor Wat, as well as running science, media and cultural programmes internationally.

The country plans to become "a non-member observer state in order to contribute USA views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education".

As part of the decision, the United States notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the intent to withdraw and become a permanent observer of the body instead.

Bokova released a statement in light of the news.

The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

"At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack", Bokova said.

"This is another example of the Trump's administration's profound ambivalence and concern about the way the U.N.is structured and behaves, and it shows the administration's determination to separate itself from its predecessors", said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations.

Many saw the 2011 UNESCO vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

The United States has walked away once before under ex-president Ronald Reagan, who quit UNESCO in 1984 over alleged financial mismanagement and claims of anti-US bias in some of its policies.

UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot. After he was elected but before he became president, Mr. Trump made an extraordinary intervention on the world stage by criticizing the Obama administration's decision not to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israeli settlements. This past July, UNESCO's decision to recognize the ancient city of Hebron (aka al-Khalīl), located in the West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site drew sharp criticism from the Trump administration, particularly from Nikki Haley.

The decision follows a string of UNESCO decisions that have drawn criticism from the United States and Israel.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER