United States pulls out of UNESCO

Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris France

It will take effect at the end of 2018.

The State Department briefly outlined its reasoning in a press release: "This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects USA concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was preparing to pull out of UNESCO, the UN's cultural and educational agency, hours after the United States made a similar announcement.

Bokova recalled that in 2011, when the USA suspended payment of its membership contributions, she was convinced that the UNESCO never mattered as much for the United States or vice versa.

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO's funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation, founded after World War Two to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

The US has a long history of contradictions with UNESCO, an global body that is aimed at promoting a respect for the rule of law and human rights through cultural and scientific collaboration.

In addition to anti-Israel bias, the department cited "the need for fundamental reform" and "mounting arrears" at the organization.

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The US stopped 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, a State Department spokesperson said. Unesco was dependent on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, then about $70 million a year.

Leaving UNESCO might seem like typical Trump isolationism, but the U.S.'s beef with the organization goes back to previous administrations.

"It's a loss to UNESCO, it's a loss to the family of the United Nations and it's a loss to multilateralism", Bokova said in a statement. Nearly 200 states are now members of UNESCO. "At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues".

Earlier this year, UNESCO triggered Israel's anger after it listed Hebron, a city in the occupied West Bank, as a world heritage site in the "State of Palestine". It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.

Director-General Irina Bokova expressed disappointment at the United States decision.

The text denounced "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem". The organization was established in 1945 with its headquarters in Paris.

The U.S. move underscores the scepticism expressed by President Donald Trump about the need for the U.S.to remain engaged in multi-lateral bodies.

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