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US to withdraw from UNESCO cultural agency

The Hill logo The Hill 12/10/2017 Mallory Shelbourne

State Department announces it will withdraw from UNESCO © Provided by The Hill State Department announces it will withdraw from UNESCO The Trump administration on Thursday said it would withdraw the United States from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), citing anti-Israeli bias from the organization.

UNESCO was informed of the administration's decision on Thursday. The State Department said the U.S. would instead see to be a permanent observer to UNESCO, a UN organization that promotes collaboration among countries through culture, education and science.

"This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO," State spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

This is not the first time the United States has withdrawn from the organization, nor is it the first time the United States has criticized UNESCO for anti-Israeli bias. The United States also withdrew from the organization during the Cold War under former President Ronald Reagan.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. slashed $80 million per year of its funding for the organization, according to Foreign Policy, a move that followed UNESCO's admittance of Palestine as a member.

The cuts have increased the money owed by the United States to UNESCO to $500 million, the magazine reported.

Fights over Israel and the Palestinian cause have been frequent flashpoints for the United States under past administrations.

Israel last year summoned its UNESCO ambassador after the organization declared that one of Jerusalem's holy sites is specifically a "Muslim holy site of worship," according to Reuters.

The U.S. will still be involved with the organization "as a non-member observer state," the State Department said.

The goal is "to contribute U.S. 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."

The withdrawal will become official on December 31, 2018.

Slideshow: Around the world in 50 UNESCO world heritage sites (Provided by GES)

Victoria Falls Around the world in 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites


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