Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

US, Israel to quit UNESCO

VN exits race for UNESCO chief position US withdraws from UNESCO
Elias Hubbard | 13 October, 2017, 00:41

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep regret over the U.S. decision to leave UNESCO, according to Deputy UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq.

The U.S. will remain an observer in the Paris-based cultural, scientific and educational organization, according to Trend.

"On October 12, 2017, the Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the USA decision to withdraw from the organization ..."

The agency is known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria's Palmyra and the US Grand Canyon.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave formal notification of the USA withdrawal on the grounds of "continuing anti-Israel bias" and "mounting arrears". Nearly 200 states are now members of UNESCO.

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the timing of the State Department's statement Thursday was unexpected.

The country plans to become "a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education". The department also voiced concerns about an anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.

The US has long used UNESCO as a stage for political gestures: In 1984, the Ronald Reagan withdrew the US from UNESCO, accusing it of being pro-Soviet, anti-Israel, and anti-free market.

Nauert also clarified that, in accordance with the charter of UNESCO, the decision on "the U.S. withdrawal will enter into force on December 31, 2018".

UNESCO's executive board plans to select her successor Friday in a secret ballot.

She said the USA pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for global alliances. After he was elected but before he became president, Mr. Trump made an extraordinary intervention on the world stage by criticizing the Obama administration's decision not to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israeli settlements.

But in addition to the decision to admit the Palestinians in 2011, it has been the scene of repeated diplomatic flare-ups after Arab countries succeeded in passing a number of resolutions critical of Israel.

The decision follows a string of UNESCO decisions that have drawn criticism from the USA and Israel. The city, one of the world's oldest, sits in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"Among other efforts, UNESCO is committed to building the capacity of various individuals and stakeholders to develop and amplify innovative responses against extremism; all while promoting the protection of freedom of expression, privacy and other fundamental freedoms", Bokova wrote in a CNN op-ed in September.

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