Bei­jing reaf­firms UNESCO sup­port

China backs UN’s cul­tural agency in wake of United States’ with­drawal

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By MO JINGXI mo­jingxi@chi­

China said on Fri­day it will con­tinue to sup­port the work of UNESCO and con­duct co­op­er­a­tion with other coun­tries af­ter the United States an­nounced with­drawal from the Paris-based UN cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Bei­jing has noted the re­lated state­ment,” For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said, adding that China hopes all coun­tries will con­trib­ute to meet UNESCO’s goal of pro­mot­ing in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in ed­u­ca­tion, science and cul­ture, as well as fa­cil­i­tat­ing un­der­stand­ing among civ­i­liza­tions.

“China will con­tinue to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in and sup­port UNESCO’s work and co­op­er­ate with other coun­tries,” she said.

The US on Thurs­day in­formed UNESCO that it would for­mally with­draw from the or­ga­ni­za­tion on Dec 31, 2018 and would seek to re­main en­gaged as a non­mem­ber ob­server state.

The United Na­tions, Rus­sia and France have voiced deep re­grets over the US de­ci­sion to quit the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res through his spokesman ex­pressed his deep re­gret over Wash­ing­ton’s de­ci­sion, “con­sid­er­ing the ma­jor US role in UNESCO since its found­ing”.

UNESCO Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Irina Bokova said in a state­ment that the US with­drawal would be a loss to the United Na­tions and “a loss to mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism”.

UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly Pres­i­dent Miroslav La­j­cak ex­pressed his con­cerns that the US move “could have ad­verse im­pacts upon the im­por­tant work of UNESCO”.

While em­pha­siz­ing the role played by the US in mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, La­j­cak stressed the need for its con­tin­ued en­gage­ment in the work of UNESCO.

Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­istry said on Thurs­day it re­grets the US move, adding it would dis­rupt a num­ber of im­por­tant projects planned by the UN’s cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional agency.

“We share the con­cern by many coun­tries that the ac­tiv­ity of UNESCO has been too politi­cized lately,” the min­istry said.

France also voiced its re­gret over the with­drawal “at a time when in­ter­na­tional sup­port for this or­ga­ni­za­tion is cru­cial”.

French For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Agnes Ro­matet-Es­pagne said “the fu­ture of UNESCO is of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance to France”, while re­it­er­at­ing Paris com­mit­ment to the UN cul­tural agency’s “crit­i­cal ac­tions” that con­trib­ute to achiev­ing the UN goal of peace.

The US stopped fund­ing UNESCO af­ter the or­ga­ni­za­tion voted to in­clude Pales­tine as a mem­ber in 2011, and now owes about $550 mil­lion in back pay­ments.

All coun­tries should un­der­take global af­fairs in a con­certed way, but the US de­ci­sion is ir­re­spon­si­ble and op­por­tunis­tic.”

Li Haidong,

Is­rael fol­lows

Af­ter the US no­ti­fied the UN or­ga­ni­za­tion about its move, Is­rael wel­comed it.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu had in­structed the For­eign Min­istry to pre­pare his coun­try’s with­drawal from UNESCO on the same date as the US, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO be­fore, in 1984 when the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion left be­cause it viewed the agency as mis­man­aged, cor­rupt and used to ad­vance Soviet in­ter­ests. The US re­joined in 2003.

Li Haidong, a pro­fes­sor of US stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Uni­ver­sity, said Wash­ing­ton’s with­drawal will have an im­pact on spe­cific projects in the short term, but UNESCO’s op­er­a­tion will re­turn to nor­mal as other mem­bers will shoul­der greater re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“All coun­tries should un­der­take global af­fairs in a con­certed way, but the US de­ci­sion is ir­re­spon­si­ble and op­por­tunis­tic,” he said.

Xin­hua, Reuters and AP con­trib­uted to this story.

The UN’s ed­u­ca­tional, sci­en­tific and cul­tural agency

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