US withdraws from UNESCO over ‘anti-Israel bias’

“This decision... reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias..”
A logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) displayed in front of the organization headquarters on September 14, 2011.(AFP File Photo)
A logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) displayed in front of the organization headquarters on September 14, 2011.(AFP File Photo)
Updated on Oct 12, 2017 09:45 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

The United States on Thursday announced it was withdrawing from UNESCO citing its anti-Israel bias, mounting arrears and the need for “fundamental reform” in the world body, but will continue to be engaged with it as a “permanent observer”.

The break becomes effective December, 2018.

The US had left the body, which it had helped found in the aftermath of World War 2, once before: in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan saying it had a pro-Soviet Union bias. It returned in 2002, under President George W Bush.

Relations had deteriorated in recent years over the UN body’s support of Palestine, and Washington stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO recognised the Palestinian Authority.

And now it’s leaving altogether. “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 US state department said in a statement.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, expressed “profound regret” on US pullout.

“At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues,” she said in a statement.

UNESCO, which is based in Paris, was founded in 1945 to promote international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication, and the World Heritage Sites is one of its best-known programmes.

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