Another sign of Trump’s isolationist thinking
The United States announced on Thursday that it was withdrawing from UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural and educational agency, citing its frustration at how the Paris-based organization is run and its “continuing anti-Israel bias” as the reasons. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.
The US will remain a full member of UNESCO until Dec 31 next year, after which it will seek to establish a permanent observer mission to the organization.
While the Donald Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, the timing of the US State Department’s statement is due to the resourceful Israeli lobbyists in the US. Israel has been enraged by recent UNESCO resolutions that name ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.
It is not the first time Washington has pulled out of UNESCO. It did the same in 1984 because it saw the agency as corrupt and inclined to advance the Soviet Union’s interests, only to rejoin the organization in 2003.
Despite a series of failures to deliver on his election promises, Trump is serious about carrying out his “America First” campaign, which is having a profound influence on the US foreign policy as shown in Washington’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and Paris climate agreement.
The cut in the State Department bud- get aside, his isolationist thinking obviously contradicts the fact that the US contributes 22 percent of the UN membership fees and 28 percent of the cost of the UN peacekeeping missions. That said, the US under Trump’s watch is expected to scale down its participation in international institutions, enhancing the likelihood of a power vacuum.
Its promise to stay engaged as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues such as the protection of World Heritage sites still matters, because Washington’s full retreat from global affairs risks destabilizing the US-led post-World War II order. However, the turning inward of the US indicates a new multilateral approach to global governance is called for.