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US to pull out of UNESCO
The United States on Thursday announced its decision to withdraw from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), accusing the Paris-based UN affiliate of “continuing anti-Israel bias”.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
The withdrawal, however, takes effect only on December 31, 2018. “The United States will remain a full member of UNESCO until that time,” Nauert said, adding that UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokorova has been notified of the US decision to withdraw and to seek, instead, to establish a permanent observer mission.
Reacting to the decision, Bokova expressed “profound regret”, calling the US move a “loss for multilateralism”. In a statement from Paris, she said:
“Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity.”
The US has had strained relations with UNESCO off and on over a long period. Back in 1984, under the Reagan Administration, it first withdrew from the UNESCO, accusing it of pro-Soviet bias. It rejoined only in 2002 under the Bush Administration.
Renewed differences arose in 2011, when the Obama Administration cut off funding in protest over UNESCO’s action of admitting Palestine as a ful member. With the termination of financial contributions, the US lost its vote in the organization in 2013.
While notifying its decision, the US has indicated to the Director-General its “desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US 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”.
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