The US Is Leaving UNESCO - Again

Ambassador Phạm Sanh Châu the Vietnamese candidate for the position of UNESCO Director-General. — VNA  VNS

The outgoing UNESCO director-general, Irina Bokova, expressed her "profound regret" at the USA decision and tried to defend the reputation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions.

Israel has also announced today that they will be quitting the United Nations agency, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision by the USA "brave and moral".

The US withdrawal was also motivated by a desire to stop accruing arrears to the agency, Foreign Policy magazine reported.

That has clearly failed, as evidenced by its continued push to remove all Jewish references to religious sites in the Holy Lands. Israel would pull out on the same date as the U.S.

The AP quotes a State Department source.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for Unesco by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of Unesco by senior USA officials, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

Until that time, the United States, which provides around $80 million to UNESCO annually, will remain a full member.

In October, Israel suspended its co-operation over a draft resolution referring to the Old City of Jerusalem as part of "the cultural heritage of Palestine". She called Washington's step a "loss to multilateralism".

The Trump administration and Israel have voiced concern over a series of Unesco decisions, including the listing of the city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site.

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But President Donald Trump's administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an "America First" policy that has allies in Europe anxious.

Since Trump took office, the United States has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and withdrawn from the Paris climate deal.

"UNESCO will continue to work for the universality of this Organization, for the values we share, for the objectives we hold in common, to strengthen a more effective multilateral order and a more peaceful, more just world", Bokova concluded.

"The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss".

According to economist Jeffrey David Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the decision was made "because UNESCO promotes science, education, culture".

For differing reasons, Britain, Japan and Brazil are among states that have yet to pay their dues for 2017.

After four days of secret balloting to pick a new UNESCO chief, Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari qualified for the Friday runoff. One will be eliminated after another vote by 58-member Executive Council on Friday.

The candidate from Egypt, Moushira Khattab, bagged the third spot with 13 votes, while Chinese candidate Qian Tang and Lebanese Vera El Khoury received five and four votes, respectively. If the two finalists end level, they draw lots.

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