US, Israel pull out of UN cultural organ over alleged bias, need for reform

Citing an “anti-Israel bias,” “need for reform,” and “financial considerations,” the U.S. government informed the United Nation’s world heritage group, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it will formally sever ties with the body at the end of next year.

Founded in 1947, UNESCO’s concentration of purpose is to promote educational, cultural and scientific programs.

A State Department press release announcing the decision read:

“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.”

Although the U.S. is tentatively scheduled to end its relationship with UNESCO on Dec. 31, 2018, it will seek to affiliate as a permanent observer to the body.

Addressing the matter and stating the State Department carefully examined America’s role with the body, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said:

“U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense.”

Ms. Haley continued to denounce the politicized climate of the body, declaring it a “chronic embarrassment” and warned the U.S would continue to appraise its role in similar UN agencies.

Following America’s lead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced shortly afterwards Israel will also be terminating its UNESCO membership.

Responding to the news, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her regret for Washington’s decision to withdraw from an “agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack.”

“This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism,” she continued.

Thursday’s withdrawal from UNESCO is not the first instance in which the U.S. has protested the groups’ perceived bias.  Following the UN’s recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1974, the U.S. withdrew, but rejoined later.

A decade later, under the Reagan administration, the U.S. once again pulled out of UNESCO over claims the body was fiscally irresponsible and politically biased.

Rejoining in 2003, during the Bush administration, the U.S. has remained since, but withheld funding in 2011 amid an uproar over the UN accepting the Palestinian Authority as a non-state observer member.

 

[Reuters] [BBC News] [Photo courtesy Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via The Algemeiner]