The US Is Leaving UNESCO - Again

Friday, 13 Oct, 2017

The United States announced its withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Thursday, withthe State Department citing among other issues a "continuing anti-Israel bias", prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order the Foreign Ministry to prepare its own withdrawal and Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon to hail "a new era in the UN".

In a lengthy written statement, Irina Bokova, Unesco's director-general, expressed regret at the American withdrawal and said that the American people shared the organization's goals.

"This is a loss to UNESCO", she added.

Washington's withdrawal is set to take effect on December 21, 2018, when it will establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the agency.

The US has a long history of contradictions with UNESCO, an worldwide body that is aimed at promoting a respect for the rule of law and human rights through cultural and scientific collaboration. From 2019 onward, the US intends to participate as an observer state but will no longer be a voting member of the organisation, according to the US Department of State.

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.

Hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too, calling the US decision "brave and moral". UNESCO also works to improve education for girls in poor countries, help them enter scientific fields, defend media freedom and coordinate world knowledge about climate change, among other activities.

An Arab-backed UNESCO resolution past year condemned Israeli's policies at religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The pulling out of UNESCO.

She said the USA and Unesco matter to each other more than ever now because "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security". It might be alluding to the fact that Palestine, which has not been granted full membership to the United Nations, is a UNESCO member, and that the West Bank city of Hebron was recently named an official world heritage site in a UNESCO statement that also called Israeli occupation of the territory illegal. Israel has accused UNESCO of making a politically motivated move, part of what it says is an attempt to deny the Jewish character and heritage of certain key sites in the Holy Land.

US officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and it was not discussed with other countries. It wasn't until 18 years later that it rejoined under the administration of George W. Bush.

The Director General gave examples of collaborating during that time, such as launching the Global Partnership for Girls' and Women's Education and celebrating World Press Freedom Day in Washington, D.C., with the National Endowment for Democracy.