US withdraws from UNESCO, UN's cultural organisation, citing anti-Israel bias

The United States took another step to distance itself from the international community by withdrawing from UNESCO.
PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

The United States took another step to distance itself from the international community by withdrawing from UNESCO.

The United States plans to withdraw from UNESCO, citing financial reasons, as well as what it said was an anti-Israel bias at the UN's educational, cultural and science organisation.

The decision to withdraw from UNESCO, which the United States helped found, was announced on Thursday morning (Friday NZ Time) by the State Department, which said the United States would remain involved as a nonmember observer. It will take effect at the end of 2018.

It marks yet another decision by the United States to distance itself from some parts of the international community.

UNESCO was set up after World War II to help promote the free flow of information in international community.
REUTERS

UNESCO was set up after World War II to help promote the free flow of information in international community.

Some of the United States's closest allies are among UNESCO's 195 members. France's UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, had urged the United States to remain in UNESCO this week, saying the United States "must stay committed to world affairs."

READ MORE: Israeli diplomat says UNESCO resolution less important than fixing his toilet

 

UNESCO was established after World War II to help promote the free flow of information. It is perhaps best known for the World Heritage programme, which helps preserve cultural sites of import around the globe.

But the United States has at times had an ambivalent relationship with the Paris-based organisation. The government stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member.

And senior Trump administration officials - including US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley - have been critical of the organisation.

Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, expressed "profound regret" after the State Department announced its decision. "Universality is critical to UNESCO's mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity," she said in a statement.

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