United States Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO, Cites 'Anti-Israel Bias'

Hegadorn said the US would remain a force at the cultural agency in the same way as it was from 1984, when the country withdrew under then-President Ronald Reagan.

The State Department announced today that the United States will withdraw from UNESCO, citing "continuing anti-Israel bias" at the United Nation's cultural, educational, and science organization as well as its "need for fundamental reform" and "mounting arrears".

The outgoing UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, expressed her "profound regret" at the USA decision and tried to defend the reputation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions.

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".

It will establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation, the state department said.


Israel on Thursday welcomed US pulling out of the UN's cultural organization, announcing the Jewish state was considering a similar move due to the body's "anti-Israel" bias.

The US stopped paying dues to the global body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million, a State Department spokesperson said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - who is also Israel's foreign minister - gave instructions to "prepare for Israel's exit from UNESCO parallel with the US", Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Thursday. 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.

It's worth noting that when the USA withdraws from UNESCO, as pledged, it will not be for the first time.

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


"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.

The U.S. move underscores the scepticism expressed by President Donald Trump about the need for the U.S.to remain engaged in multi-lateral bodies. The U.S. rejoined it in 2003.

In July, Unesco declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as a Palestinian World Heritage site in danger, a decision sharply criticized by Israel and its allies.

Its head, Irina Bokova, earlier called the USA withdrawal a matter of "profound regret".



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