Wednesday, 11 October 2017

U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO, Again to Avoid Paying Six Years' Owed Dues

Colum Lynch reports in Foreign Policy (U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO, Again Oct 11, 2017) that Trump's Washington,  worried about past dues and what it calls an 'anti-Israel bias', Washington plans to formally withdraw from UNESCO, the U.N.’s Paris-based cultural, scientific and educational organization.
The move, which could be announced as early as next week, marks America’s further estrangement from an organization [...] to widen access to education and ensure the free flow of ideas. The United States will maintain its presence at UNESCO as an observer state. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision several weeks ago, [...] The State Department wanted to delay its departure until after UNESCO selects a new director general this week. The two front runners are the former French culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, and a Qatari diplomat, Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari
The Americans have left UNESCO before of course. In 1984, at the height of the Cold War, the Reagan Administration decided to withdraw citing corruption and what it considered an ideological tilt towards the Soviet Union against the West. The US rejoined unde President George W. Bush in 2002, claiming that the alleged corruption had now gone and the Organiaztion had abandoned its alleged 'anti-Western and anti-Israel biases'. Bush saw it as a tool within which America would again 'participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning', Fifteen years on, that seems no longer a priority in Trump's internally-focussed America. The problem is that the US owes UNESCO a large amount of money. As reported on this blog, six years ago, the United States cut off more than $80 million a year (which is about 22 percent of its entire budget) for UNESCO, in reprisal for its acceptance of Palestine as a member as the result of a democratic vote of the member states and despite US resistance. The administration claimed this cut was necessary 'because a 1990s-era law prohibits U.S. funding for any U.N. agencies recognizing Palestine as a state'. Despite that, the US was allowed to remain a member of UNESCO, and even had a vote on the executive board, but due to being behind on the payments, lost its voting rights in UNESCO’s General Conference (which is responsible for approving the budget and establishes a range of programs dealing with education, science, and culture around the globe). U.S. arrears have been swelling each year and now surpass $500 million that’s owed to UNESCO.

A fundamental problem the US has in working with the global community represented by UNESCO is the organization's approach to one small state, Isreal.
Last year, Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest after Arab governments in the organization secured support for a resolution denouncing Israel’s policies regarding religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. And in July, UNESCO declared the old city in Hebron, a West Bank town that includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a Palestinian World Heritage Site, a move Israel claims negates Judaism’s links to the biblical town.
How dare they? The patriarchs of course being nothing to do with Judaism, eh?

Israel has said it will join the US in pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, after US officials cited "anti-Israel bias".

Vignette: America looks after its own

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