The UN's educational, scientific, cultural agency — UNESCO

Posted October 15, 2017

In a statement, the U.S. State Department cited an "anti-Israel bias" as one of the reasons to withdraw and move the nation's status to that of a "permanent observer".

US President Donald Trump's administration is reviewing many of its multilateral commitments.

Best known for designating World Heritage Sites, the UN's cultural agency is disappointed at the US' announcement.

"The goal of the UNESCO is to enhance cooperation in the field of education, science and culture and promote mutual understanding and integration in these fields", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

We've stripped out the jargon for you to give you a sense of what's going on.

"Non-Western countries are already a powerful bloc in UNESCO, and their influence will increase further [after U.S. withdrawal]", says Gowan.

"The objective of UNESCO is a good one". The United States stands by Israel and is a true leader for change at the UN.

It's the heritage listing part of UNESCO that the U.S. is objecting to here. This pisses Israel off, because Israel does not recognise the sovereignty of Palestine, and has been continuing to build illegal settlements in Palestinian territory for years.

"Today is a new day at the United Nations, where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel", Danon said.

There's obviously much, much more complex history to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which we don't have time to go into here.

Israel, meanwhile, remains a member of UNESCO.

What Does This Have To Do With The US?

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In December, after the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, Netanyahu ordered $6 million cut from Israel's payment to the UN. In 2013, the USA lost voting power due to its non-payment.

At the time, Israel not happy with the US.

UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak has voiced concerns that the U.S. move could affect the important work of UNESCO.

UNESCO's outgoing Director General Irina Bokova in a statement said that the United States' decision to withdraw was a loss for multilateralism, and that universality was critical to UNESCO's mission.

The U.S. suspended paying dues to the worldwide body in late 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership and now owes approximately $550 million. It not only wins Egypt's praise, but will surely cast China in a favorable light among Arab states in UNESCO at the same time the USA withdrawal, tied to its support of Israel, will add to tension between the US and the Arab states of the Middle East. The Israeli Prime Minister called the U.S. move a "brave and moral" decision.

The US too lost its voting rights at the same time and has not paid some $80 million a year in dues since 2011. It, however, rejoined in 2002.

But the U.S. and Israel still retain other privileges as member states, which they will lose should they leave the organization.

Iowa City was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008 and remains the only US city with the distinction.

Supporters of Israel say this financial pressure is good, and will send a strong message to the UN. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, applauded Trump's decision to withdraw from UNESCO.

Rex Tillerson had made the decision weeks ago, informing French president Emmanuel Macron during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in NY, reports Foreign Policy.

Trump also lashed out at the UN in his first speech at the UN General Assembly in NY last month, saying, "Too often, the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process".

Then earlier this year, Mr Netanyahu condemned Unesco for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.