Beijing reaffirms UNESCO support
China backs UN’s cultural agency in wake of United States’ withdrawal
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.”
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