US to withdraw from Unesco over 'anti-Israel bias'

US to withdraw from Unesco over 'anti-Israel bias'

International | Written by : IANS| Updated: Thu, Oct 12, 2017, 10:18 PM

US to withdraw from Unesco over 'anti-Israel bias'

Washington, Oct 12 (IANS)   The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it is withdrawing from the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, accusing it of an "anti-Israel" bias.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that the US would be pulling out of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation by the end of the year.

"This decision was not taken lightly and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation and continuing anti-Israel bias at Unesco," Nauert said.

While the US announced its decision to withdraw from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue to be engaged with Unesco to provide American perspective and expertise, but as a non-member observer. 

Unesco, known for its designation of world heritage sites, is a global development agency with missions that include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women.

The Department said it would establish an observer mission at the Paris-based organisation to replace its representation.

Unesco said the withdrawal was a loss to the "UN family" and to multilateralism.

This isn't the first time the US has pulled out of Unesco. Former President Ronald Reagan withdrew the US from the organisation in 1984, and former President George W. Bush rejoined the cultural group in 2002.

The Obama administration cut off funding to Unesco in 2011 as the group admitted Palestinians as full members, which the US saw as undercutting its influence in countries around the world, the New York Times reported. 

America lost its vote in the organisation in 2013 because it ended its financial contributions.

In July, Unesco declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage Site.