The U.S. State Department declared today that they would be pulling out of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) until a “fundamental reform” happens within the organization and the anti-Israel bias stops, reports Fox News.
— Department of State (@StateDept) October 12, 2017
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
The U.S. will remain in the organization as a non-member observer state “to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise,” said Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director-General. The withdraw will take effect on Dec. 31, 2018 and until then the U.S. will remain a full member of UNESCO.
UNESCO is most known for its World Heritage program that helps protect cultural sites and traditions around the world. The agency has been known to work to improve education for girls in poor countries and in scientific fields, to promote better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust and to defend media freedom, among other things.
The U.S. has pulled out of UNESCO before in the 1980’s because Washington believed it was mismanaged and used for political reasons, but then rejoined in 2003.
The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes.
Many in the organization saw the vote to include Palestine as evidence of a long-run bias against Israel within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.
The Trump administration made the decision amid UNESCO voting to choose a new director this week, in tense balloting overshadowed by the agency’s funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership. This decision has been speculated for months now and was expected before the end of the year.
In addition, the proposed budget from the Trump administration contained no provision for the possibility that UNESCO funding restrictions might be lifted.