US withdraws from UNESCO, accuses the organisation of anti-Israel bias

Washington would establish an "observer mission" to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 13, 2017 10:14 am
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The United States on Thursday announced that it is to withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation, accusing the body of”anti-Israel bias.” Washington would establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. The withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. The US will remain a full member of UNESCO until that time.

“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,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

She said the Department of State today notified United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation Director-General Irina Bokova of the US decision to withdraw from the organisation and to seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO.

“The US indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organisation, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education,” Nauert said.

Paris-based UNESCO, which began work in 1946, is known for designating World Heritage sites.

UNESCO, the cultural and educational agency of the United Nations, expressed regret over the United States’ official decision to leave its organisation. “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,” said UNESCO director general Irina Bokova in a statement.

Bokova added that the U.S. decision marked a loss for multilateralism and for the UN family. The United States had cancelled its substantial budget contribution to UNESCO in 2011 in protest at a decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

(With agencies inputs)

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