U.S. pulling out of UNESCO

UN AGENCY HAS BEEN FO­CUS OF CRIT­I­CISM

Lethbridge Herald - - HEADLINE NEWS CANADA & BEYOND - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS — PARIS

U.S. of­fi­cials have told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, af­ter re­peated crit­i­cism of res­o­lu­tions by the UN cul­tural agency that Wash­ing­ton sees as anti-Is­rael.

While the U.S. stopped fund­ing UNESCO af­ter it voted to in­clude Pales­tine as a mem­ber in 2011, the State Depart­ment has main­tained a UNESCO of­fice at its Paris head­quar­ters and sought to weigh in on pol­icy be­hind the scenes. The with­drawal was con­firmed Thurs­day by U.S. of­fi­cials speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t au­tho­rized to be pub­licly named dis­cussing the de­ci­sion. It was not clear when the move would be for­mally an­nounced.

The de­ci­sion comes as the UN Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion is vot­ing to choose a new di­rec­tor this week, in tense bal­lot­ing over­shad­owed by the agency’s fund­ing trou­bles and di­vi­sions over Pales­tinian mem­ber­ship.

Many saw the vote to in­clude Pales­tine as ev­i­dence of lon­grun­ning, in­grained anti-Is­rael bias within the United Na­tions, where Is­rael and its al­lies are far out­num­bered by Arab coun­tries and their sup­port­ers.

UNESCO is best known for its World Her­itage pro­gram to pro­tect cul­tural sites and tra­di­tions around the world.

The agency also works to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion for girls in des­per­ately poor coun­tries and in sci­en­tific fields, to pro­mote bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the hor­rors of the Holo­caust and to de­fend me­dia free­dom, among other ac­tiv­i­ties.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been pre­par­ing for a likely with­drawal for months, and a de­ci­sion was ex­pected be­fore the end of the year, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials. Sev­eral di­plo­mats who were to have been posted to the mis­sion this sum­mer were told that their po­si­tions were on hold and ad­vised to seek other jobs.

In ad­di­tion, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed bud­get for the next fis­cal year con­tains no pro­vi­sion for the pos­si­bil­ity that UNESCO fund­ing re­stric­tions might be lifted.

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

The U.S. pulled out of UNESCO in the 1980s be­cause Wash­ing­ton viewed it as mis­man­aged and used for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, then re­joined it in 2003.

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