U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO, Again

Phillip Cunningham
October 15, 2017

The United States indicated to the Director General its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute USA 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. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel plans to follow suit.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said the decision makes "it clear that culture, history, world heritage isn't impt to [Trump], even if it is to Americans & world".

The U.S. will withdraw on December 31, 2018, but will remain active in the group as a nonmember observer.

A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the USA owes UNESCO.

The country accused the body of "anti-Israel bias".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Government is committed to continued United Kingdom membership of Unesco and to working with other member states in support of its important work". The U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now with "the rise of violent extremism and terrorism", she said.

This UNESCO withdrawal is the latest in a series of disengagement by Donald Trump's administration, which has been busily scrapping worldwide trade deals and other global arrangements as it seeks to fulfil the campaign promise to "Make America Great Again" and perhaps score public-relations points with its conservative base.

The US also withdrew its funding to the organization in 2011.


The U.S. will remain as an observer. This is a loss to the United Nations family.

It's akin to the divorce of estranged partners, because the relationship between the USA and UNESCO has been strained since 2011 when Palestinian territories were admitted to the organisation as an independent member state called Palestine.

In 2011 the U.S. and Israel were two of only 14 nations out of 194 UN members who voted against the inclusion of Palestine.

The Paris-based agency was founded after World War II to help preserve sites of important cultural and natural heritage, such as the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Grand Canyon.

In 2012, after Obama had pulled US funding, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO in a paper titled UNESCO without US Funding? It also withdrew under the Reagan administration in 1984, and rejoined in 2002 under President George W. Bush.

The resolution also criticised Israel's activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Bokova said the partnership between the United States and UNESCO "has never been so meaningful", despite the withholding of US funding.

An Arab-backed UNESCO resolution past year condemned Israeli's policies at religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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