The United States has decided to withdraw from UNESCO, which will take effect next year. The U.S. State Department said the withdrawal was due to anti-Israel bias alongside some financial considerations. They stated a “need for fundamental reform in the organization” and will continue as a “non-member observer state” in the future.
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is an agency of the United Nations that–as the name indicates–focuses on the educational, scientific and cultural reforms with nations around the world. It is a major player in the implementation of UN action when it comes to human rights abuses, be it human trafficking or systematic genocide. It combats these things by providing education (though it does not accredit higher learning) in the categories listed above and promoting the freedom of the press, among other things.
UNESCO was formed in 1945, only two months after the close of WWII. The United States had a pivotal role in its inception, and if you look at the original list of members of the delegations, the U.S. has the most people by far, with France coming in second. They got going the following year and have been active ever since.
In the past 70 years, the UNESCO’s constitution has been changed here and there, but its goals remain largely the same. It has a significant history in combating government backed racism in South Africa, empowering nations with freedom of speech, and made strides in the field of sustainable development.
In 2011, Palestine became recognized by UNESCO as a member of the organization–voted in by a landslide of 14 against and 107 for. This was a problem for the U.S., since according to their laws they cannot financially contribute to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” According to the U.S., Palestine does not fit this bill and so this has put the U.S. at odds with UNESCO.
Since the US withdrawal, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, has expressed her concern over the matter. She said, “I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO.” She went on to list many of the similar goals shared between the U.S. and UNESCO, and also many of their shared accomplishments. She said the U.S. withdrawal was a “loss to UNESCO” and a “loss to the United Nations family.”
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.