Britain stresses Unesco commitment after United States withdraws over Israel bias

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria

The Department of State announced on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The US announced its withdrawal from UNESCO complaining about how it is run and about what Washington described as bias against Israel.

It's not the first time the US has pulled out of UNESCO: Washington did the same thing in the 1980s because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests.

That has clearly failed, as evidenced by its continued push to remove all Jewish references to religious sites in the Holy Lands. In the USA, listed sites include the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall, as well as national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

The AP quotes a State Department source.

Among these was a resolution declaring the Old City of Hebron to be Palestinian territory and a world heritage site.

UNESCO is best known for its work to preserve heritage, including maintaining a list of World Heritage sites, and programmes to promote education in developing countries.

Hegadorn said the USA would remain a force at the cultural agency in the same way as it was from 1984, when the country withdrew under then-President Ronald Reagan. This is a loss to the United Nations family.

And past year, Israel suspended cooperation with it after the agency adopted a controversial resolution which made no reference to Jewish ties to a key holy site in Jerusalem.

It was founded in 1945 as allied countries "were looking for ways and means to reconstruct their systems of education once peace was restored" in the wake of World War II, according to the organization - which now has 195 members and eight associate members.

The organisation, which employs around 2,000 people worldwide, a lot of them based in Paris, has struggled for relevance as it becomes increasingly hobbled by regional rivalries and a lack of money.

UNESCO is in the process of selecting a new chief, whose priority will be to revive its fortunes.

The U.S. joined UNESCO at its creation in 1945.

But President Donald Trump's administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an "America First" policy that has allies in Europe anxious.

"The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss".

Some of the United States's closest allies are among UNESCO's 195 members.

She said "politicisation" had "taken its toll" on the organisation in recent years. Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari of Qatar and Audrey Azoulay of France - both former culture ministers - had 18 votes apiece in the battle to replace Ms. Bokova.

The candidate from Egypt, Moushira Khattab, bagged the third spot with 13 votes, while Chinese candidate Qian Tang and Lebanese Vera El Khoury received five and four votes, respectively. One will be eliminated after another vote by 58-member Executive Council on Friday.

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