Saturday, 16 December, 2017

United States pulls out of UNESCO

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington Wednesday VN exits race for UNESCO chief position
Dexter Carr | 13 October, 2017, 00:28

The United States announced Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.'s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for "fundamental reform" in the agency.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government is committed to continued United Kingdom membership of Unesco and to working with other member states in support of its important work".

Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will also withdraw from the agency, which had become a "theatre of the absurd because instead of preserving history, it distorts it".

The Trump administration and Israel have voiced concern over a series of Unesco decisions, including the listing of the city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site.

"On October 12, 2017, the Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the USA decision to withdraw from the organization ..."

The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, a lot of them based in Paris, has always been the object of criticism over its use of resources and resolutions that have been perceived by Israel and other countries as biased.

Just hours after that vote, the US chose to cut its payments to UNESCO, while still maintaining its membership.

The withdrawals are a severe blow for the Paris-based organisation which began work in 1946 and is known for designating World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and Sceilig Mhichíl in Co Kerry.

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President George W. Bush announced America's return in 2002, but relations soured again in 2011 when Washington pulled the plug on funding to the body after its members voted to admit Palestine as a full member.

The agency is in the process of choosing a new leader, with Qatari and French former ministers Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and Audrey Azoulay neck-and-neck in the contest to replace Ms Bokova.

In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova responded to the move in a lengthy statement, describing it as "a loss for multilateralism".

She said the US pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for global alliances.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, also praised Washington's move as heralding "a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel". In 2002, George W Bush joined UNESCO again, and in 2011, Barack Obama cut most USA funding to UNESCO due to the organization's recognition of Palestine. The Reagan administration withdrew from the organisation in 1984 - accusing the agency of corruption and an ideological bias towards the then Soviet Union - but the U.S. rejoined in 2002.

America has chose to withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations programme responsible for corralling worldwide cooperation on issues such as science and education and designating world heritage sites.

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