United States pulls out of UNESCO

United States pulls out of UNESCO

Israel will withdraw from the UN's cultural and education body after a United States decision to do the same on accusations of bias against the Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday (Oct 12).

Israel, which remains a UNESCO member, said the move by the Trump administration marked a "new era" for the United Nations and showed there was a "price to pay for discrimination against Israel".

The State Department says its decision came down to debts and the need for reform in the agency.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the time called the decision an "affront to history" and announced that Washington would evaluate "the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO".

The Israel controversy re-ignited this summer after UNESCO named Hebron's city center a Palestinian World Heritage Site.

Analysts said that actually withdrawing from the organization was a significant escalation by the United States in its criticism of United Nations bodies.

Still, she noted the Trump administration wants the U.S.to remain engaged with the United Nations agency "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".

"Universality is critical to UNESCO's mission to strengthen global peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity", she said in a statement.

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The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes.

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.

In October, Israel suspended its co-operation over a draft resolution referring to the Old City of Jerusalem as part of "the cultural heritage of Palestine".

"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", the statement said. She called Washington's step a "loss to multilateralism".

The United Nation's education, cultural and scientific agency has passed several resolutions against Israel.

It's not the first time the USA has pulled out of UNESCO: Washington did the same thing in the 1980s because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. Under the Reagan Administration, the USA quit UNESCO in 1984, at the time accusing the agency of a pro- Soviet Union bias.

Citing lines in UNESCO's 1945 Constitution by US Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish - "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed" ¬- she said this vision has never been more relevant, and added that the US helped inspire the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

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