United States pulls out of United Nations cultural organisation

Oct 13, 2017, 00:24
United States pulls out of United Nations cultural organisation

The withdraw becomes official on December 31, 2018, after which the United States will remain involved as a nonmember observer state.

"This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO", department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the announcement.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the time called the decision an "affront to history" and announced that Washington would evaluate "the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO".

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the US owes UNESCO.

The United States and Israel announced on Thursday they were quitting the U.N.'s cultural agency UNESCO, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli bias. "Until then, the United States will remain a full member of UNESCO", the State Department representative summed up.

UNESCO is a body of the United Nations that promotes global cooperation in education, science, culture and communication, though it is perhaps best known for its designation of "world heritage" sites - locations with particular cultural significance.

He said he has ordered Israeli diplomats to prepare Israel's withdrawal from the organisation in concert with the Americans.

The US helped found Unesco in the wake of the Second World War, with the aim of ensuring peace through the free flow of ideas and education.

Mr Netanyahu condemned the agency this year for declaring the old city of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site. Israel would pull out on the same date as the U.S.

Ms. 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.

Since 2011, United States arrears to the organization have reached about $600 million, Ms. Bokova said, but she had told members of Congress repeatedly that immediate payment was not an issue, only American political re-engagement in the organization, which she believes serves many American interests overseas.

Many saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters. In the USA, listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Its head, Irina Bokova, earlier called the U.S. withdrawal a matter of "profound regret".

It was founded in 1945 as allied countries "were looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored" in the wake of World War II, according to the organization - which now has 195 members and eight associate members.

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