US WITHDRAWS FROM UNESCO, ALLEGES ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS
The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organisation, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group’s “anti-Israel bias.”
“This decision was not taken lightly,” according to a State Department statement on Thursday. In addition to anti-Israel bias, the department cited “the need for fundamental reform” and “mounting arrears” at the organization.
While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue providing American perspective and expertise to Unesco, but as a nonmember observer. The withdrawal goes into effect at the end of 2018.
Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known for its designation of world heritage sites, is a global development agency with missions that include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women.
In a lengthy written statement, Irina Bokova, Unesco’s directorgeneral, expressed regret at the American withdrawal and said that the American people shared the organization’s goals.
“Universality is critical to Unesco’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity,” she wrote.
In 2011, the United States stopped funding Unesco due to what was then a forgotten, 15year-old amendment mandating a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts Palestine as a full member. Various efforts by President Barack Obama to overturn the legal restriction narrowly failed in Congress, and the United States lost its vote at the organisation after two years of nonpayment, in 2013. Unesco was dependent on the United States for 22 per cent of its budget, then about $70 million a year.
Since 2011, United States arrears to the organisation have reached about $600 million, Bokova said, but she had told members of Congress repeatedly that immediate payment was not an issue, only American political re-engagement in the organisation, which she believes serves many American interests abroad. Bokova, in a telephone interview, said she “thought the decision was coming but why now, I don’t know, in the midst of elections” for a new director to replace her. “It’s very weird that’s it today,” she said. “It’s very, very regrettable.”
In 2011, US stopped funding Unesco due to a 15-year-old amendment mandating a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts Palestine as a full member