The U.S. State Department made the announcement that the country would withdraw from UNESCO. The country cited anti-Israel bias and the membership dues owed to the body as its reasons to quit.
The State Department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert stated that the Department had notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the decision.
She added that the decision was “not taken lightly” and that it “reflects U.S. concerns”.
The concerns in question are the mounting dues owed to UNESCO and the anti-Israel bias prevalent in the body.
A statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office stated that Israel too planned to withdraw from the body. In the statement, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu labelled the U.S’ move as a “courageous and moral decision”.
He accused UNESCO of being little more than “a theatre of the absurd”. He added that “instead of preserving history” the body was intent on twisting it.
The United Stated ceased paying dues to UNESCO in 2011 after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership.
Speaking of the country’s decision, U.S.’ ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said the purpose of UNESCO was good.
However, she added that the “extreme politicization” that the body was indulging in had become a “chronic embarrassment”. Haley said that the decision to classify the Tomb of the Patriarchs as a UNESCO World Heritage site was simply the latest in a “long line of foolish actions”.
She stated that these actions included keeping the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee.
However, the decision has caused ripples at the UN. While UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres expressed only regret over the U.S.’ decision, the UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák had more to add.
In a statement made via his spokesperson he said the he is concerned that the decision could have “adverse impacts upon the important work of UNESCO”.