USA withdraws from UNESCO

Posted October 13, 2017

Earlier on Thursday, the United States formally notified the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that it would withdraw from the organization on December 31, 2018.

The U.S. stopped making payments to the agency in 2011, but maintained an office at its Paris headquarters in the hopes of encouraging a change of course from behind the scenes.

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO's funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Israel has always been at loggerheads with Unesco, particularly over its decision to admit the Palestinians as members in 2011.

Nikki Haley called the agency's designation of Hebron's Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory the latest of many "foolish actions" that led to the United States' decision to pull out of UNESCO.

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Israel says it will join the U.S. in pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation after USA officials cited "anti-Israel bias".

The organization has a long history of taking anti-Israel measures, and supporting resolutions against the Jewish state.

Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization popularly known for its designation of world heritage sites, is a global development agency with missions that include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women.

Tensions have flared again in recent years: in 2011, the United States stopped funding the agency after UNESCO voted to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member; two years later, the U.S. lost its vote due to these financial cuts.

The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova voiced, "profound regret" on Thursday over the withdrawal, which she called a "loss to multilateralism".

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He says he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organization in concert with the Americans.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior USA officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Of all the United Nations bodies, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) might be the hardest to dislike. In the US, listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. It wasn't until 18 years later that it rejoined under the administration of George W. Bush.

Former president Ronald Reagan quit the organization altogether in the 1980's.

"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", she said in an extensive statement Thursday.

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