US and Is­rael for­mally quit UN­ESCO

The Miracle - - National & Int -

The United States and Is­rael have of­fi­cially quit the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UN­ESCO) at the stroke of mid­night on New Year’s Day, the cul­mi­na­tion of a process trig­gered more than a year ago. The with­drawal is mainly pro­ce­dural yet serves a new blow to UN­ESCO, co-founded by the US af­ter World War II to fos­ter peace. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion filed its no­tice to with­draw in Oc­to­ber 2017 and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu fol­lowed suit, ac­cus­ing the UN agency of anti-Is­rael bias. The Paris-based or­gan­i­sa­tion has pre­vi­ously crit­i­cised Is­rael’s oc­cu­pa­tion of East Jerusalem and granted full mem­ber­ship to Palestinein 2011. The US has de­manded “fun­da­men­tal re­form” in the agency. UN­ESCO is best known for its work to pre­serve her­itage, in­clud­ing main­tain­ing a list of World Her­itage sites, and pro­grammes to pro­mote ed­u­ca­tion in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. The with­drawals will not greatly af­fect UNE- SCO fi­nan­cially, since it has been deal­ing with a fund­ing slash ever since 2011 when both Is­rael and the US stopped pay­ing dues af­ter Pales­tine was voted in as a mem­ber state. Since then of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that the US - which ac­counted for around 22 per­cent of the to­tal bud­get - has ac­crued $600m in un­paid dues, which was one of the rea­sons for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw. Is­rael owes an es­ti­mated $10m. Of­fi­cials say that many of the rea­sons the US cited for the with­drawal do not ap­ply any more, not­ing that since then, all 12 texts on the Mid­dle East passed at UN­ESCO have been con­sen­sual among Is­rael and Arab mem­ber states. The State De­part­ment couldn’t com­ment be­cause of the US gov­ern­ment shut­down. Ear­lier, the de­part­ment told UN­ESCO of­fi­cials the US in­tends to stay en­gaged at UN­ESCO as a non-mem­ber “ob­server state” on “non-politi­cised” is­sues, in­clud­ing the pro­tec­tion of World Her­itage sites, ad­vo­cat­ing for press free­dom and pro­mot­ing sci­en­tific col­lab­o­ra­tion and ed­u­ca­tion. The US could po­ten­tially seek that sta­tus dur­ing the UN­ESCO Ex­ec­u­tive Board meet­ings in April. The US has pulled out of UN­ESCO be­fore. The Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion did so in 1984 be­cause it viewed the agency as mis­man­aged, cor­rupt, and used to ad­vance So­viet in­ter­ests. The US re­joined in 2003.

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