In a tersely-worded statement, the US State Department just announced the withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO, citing its clear anti-Israel bias as its reason. Israel immediately followed suit, announcing its withdrawal from UNESCO shortly after the US announcement.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova tweeted her profound regret that the US is withdrawing from the organization. Her tweet was posted before Israel announced its own withdrawal.
The State Department’s letter follows:
On October 12, 2017, the Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO. 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.
The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.
Pursuant to Article II(6) of the UNESCO Constitution, U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. The United States will remain a full member of UNESCO until that time.
— UNESCO (@UNESCO) October 12, 2017
ISRAELI leader Benjamin Nenanyahu has announced his country will join the United States in quitting UNESCO after Washington claimed the UN agency is “anti-Israel”.
The US withdrew funding from UNESCO after Palestine became a member in 2011, but kept its office in its Paris headquarters to influence policy from the back room.
But today Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, confirmed it was taking its protest one step further, with the withdrawal becoming effective on December 31.
The US State Department said in a statement: “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”
The statement said the US would try to “remain engaged as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise.”
UNESCO said the US decision was a loss for multilateralism and for the UN.
Shortly after the US announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would follow the US in quitting UNESCO.
The Israeli leader called the US decision to exit UNESCO “brave and moral”, according to a statement.
UNESCO director general Irina Bokova said in a statement: “After receiving official notification by the United States Secretary of State, Mr Rex Tillerson, as UNESCO Director-General, I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO.”
UNESCO – which stands from the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation – is choosing its new director this week.
It is known for declaring areas of cultural and environmental importance around the world as World Heritage sites.
The US currently has 23 places declared World Heritage sites, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park which is homes to 10,000 geysers, Yosemite National Park, which has 1,200 square miles of mountains, valleys, waterfalls and wilderness, and the Everglades National Park in Florida which hosts scores of endangered species.