USA withdraws from UNESCO over 'anti-Israel bias'

USA withdraws from UNESCO over 'anti-Israel bias'

USA withdraws from UNESCO over 'anti-Israel bias'

Chris Hegadorn, the U.S. Charge d'Affaires and ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the decision to pull out was linked to "the unfortunate politicization of the mandate of UNESCO, where anti-Israel bias has been a major factor and something the U.S. has been struggling to address".

The State Department says its decision came down to debts and the need for reform in the agency.

The outgoing head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, called the USA withdrawal a "loss to multilateralism", while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said through a spokesman that he "regrets this development deeply".

UNESCO is a body of the United Nations that promotes worldwide cooperation in education, science, culture and communication, though it is perhaps best known for its designation of "world heritage" sites - locations with particular cultural significance.

As a permanent observer to the organization, the United States would still be able to voice its opinion about matters to the body, but not vote on issues as a member.

"The objective of UNESCO is a good one", US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement.

She paid tribute to what she said had been a meaningful relationship between UNESCO and the USA, saying: "since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful".

"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", Bokova said.

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

The third round saw the breakthrough of French candidate Audrey Azouley, who secured 18 out of 58 votes of the UNESCO Executive Board, sharing top spot with Qatari candidate Hammad bin Al-Kawari.

The withdrawal, effective December 31, 2018, won't be the first for the United States.

She said the USA pulling out is a loss for the United Nations and for global alliances.

Ms Bokova's two terms as director have been deeply scarred by the 2011 Unesco vote to include Palestine as a member, funding troubles and repeated resolutions seen as anti-Israel. After he was elected but before he became president, Mr. Trump made an extraordinary intervention on the world stage by criticizing the Obama administration's decision not to block a United Nations resolution criticizing Israeli settlements.

In the statement, Netanyahu hailed the USA move as a "courageous and moral decision".

In July, the agency again delighted Palestinians when its members declared the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank an endangered World Heritage site - described as "another delusional decision" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The site is regarded as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Worldwide, UNESCO also promotes education, gender equity initiatives, access to culture and science, and the pursuit of liberal democratic ideals like freedom of expression.

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