Washington, DC. – Just this morning the Trump administration announced that the United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This significant move marks the second time that the United States has withdrawn from the United Nations body, the first was under President Reagan citing a “pro-Soviet bias” within the organization at the time. The United States rejoined in 2002 under then President George W. Bush.
The stated reasons for the withdrawal were the organization’s anti-Israel bias. Though for some time critics of UNESCO have stated they do not believe that the organization is any longer fulfilling its stated goals and takes too much money from the United States.
The United States stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member, citing a 1990s-era law that prohibits funding for U.N. groups that recognize Palestinian territories. Israel recalled its ambassador to the organization last year after some governments in the organization supported a resolution which denounced Israel’s policies on religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
This summer, UNESCO members voted to recognize the old city of Hebron in the West Bank, despite pressure from Israel and the United States.
Senior Trump administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, have been critical of the organization.
Bokova, the director-general, said the partnership between the United States and UNESCO “has never been so meaningful,” despite the withholding of U.S. funding.
“Together, we have worked to protect humanity’s shared cultural heritage in the face of terrorist attacks and to prevent violent extremism through education and media literacy,” she said.
She added: “The American poet, diplomat and Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish penned the lines that open UNESCO’s 1945 Constitution: ‘Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.’ This vision has never been more relevant.”