Why US & Israel are quitting UNESCO

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Citing anti-Israel bias, mounting arrears and a need for fundamental reforms, the Unites States has decided to quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) by end of this year, marking yet another withdrawal from world organisations by the Trump administration.US spokesperson Heather Nauert 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 US will, however, remain engaged with the organisation it helped set up the UNESCO in 1945 as a non-member observer state.

Praising the US decision to withdraw from UNESCO, Israel, too, has announced its decision to leave the organisation which it accused of becoming a “theatre of the absurd”.This is not the first time the US has pulled out of the organisation. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan had withdrawn from UNESCO citing bias toward Soviet Union. The US rejoined the UN agency 18 years later in 2002 during the presidency of George W Bush.

Almost 20 per cent of UNESCO’s budget was funded by the United States at one time. But in 2011, when Palestine was included as a full member, angering the Israelis, the US stopped its funding. The US now owes a debt of about $550 million to the Paris-based organisation.  Expressing her disappointment at the US decision to withdraw from the agency, director-general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said: “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack.” With a mission to promote peace and cooperation among nations, UNESCO has been engaged in pioneering work in the field of preserving heritage sites, improving education and promotion of science and culture. But it has also courted controversy on several occasions.Citing UNESCO’s decision to designate Hebron’s Old City and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory as highly politicised and “foolish”, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stressed that the organisation’s actions have become a matter of “chronic embarrassment”. She also criticised the UNESCO’s decision of keeping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protesters.

 


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