On Thursday, the Trump administration announced its decision that the U.S. will withdraw from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization at the end of 2018.
Starting in 2019, the U.S. will no longer be an active member and instead will act as a non-member observer. The spokesperson for the U.S. State Department cited “anti-Israel” bias as the deciding factor in the decision to leave UNESCO. Israel also announced on Thursday that it would withdraw as a member of UNESCO, following the announcement by the U.S. State Department.
In 2011, UNESCO voted to grant membership to Palestine, much to the disapproval of Israel and the United States. The U.S., in protest of the decision to admit Palestine as a full member, stopped funding the organization in 2011 and has since accumulated $550 million in unpaid dues, according to the Washington Post.
In a statement UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said “At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack. This is why I regret the withdrawal of the United States. This is a loss to UNESCO. This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism.”
Bokova, in her statement, went on to highlight the shared principles between the US and UNESCO, including scientific discovery, freedom of speech, improving education, and the empowerment of women and girls.
Over 190 countries are members of UNESCO, which was founded in 1945 for the purpose of improving education across the globe, sharing scientific discoveries across nations, preserving cultural artifacts and landmarks, and encouraging democracy and human rights for all people.
Media: CNN 10/12/17; The Washington Post 10/12/17; The Los Angeles Times 10/12/17; The New York Times 10/12/17; NPS 10/12/17