U.S., Israel quit UNESCO:

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U.S., Israel quit UNESCO:

Context

  • The United States (U.S) has announced its withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accusing it of “continuing anti-Israel bias.”

What is the major concern?

    • UNESCO is the first UN agency to have admitted Palestine as a full member in 2011. As required by law, the U.S. has stopped funding UNESCO since then. The U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. Until then, it will remain a full member.
    • The State Department of U.S said it would like to remain involved as a nonmember observer state. That will allow the United States to engage in debates and activities, though it will lose its right to vote on issues.

Israel has also decided to pull out of UNESCO.

Immediate impact

  • The most immediate impact is that the U.S. will halt the arrears it has run up since it stopped funding the organization in 2011 to protest UNESCO’s admission of Palestine as a full member.
  • By the end of this calendar year, the unpaid U.S. bill will amount to $550 million. With no sign that U.S. concerns would be addressed, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to pull out after Dec. 31, 2018, when the unpaid balance will top $600 million.

Controversy over UNESCO

  • UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage Program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world.
  • In recent years, Israel has repeatedly complained about what it says is the body taking sides in disputes over cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
  • Israel and UNESCO have a contentious relationship, and Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in 2016, accusing it of ignoring Jewish views of the heritage of the region.

UNESCO

  • The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) was founded on 16 November 1945.
  • UNESCO’s messages are of increasing importance today, in a globalized world where interconnections and diversity must serve as opportunities to build peace in the minds of men and women.
  • UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. It strengthens the ties between nations and societies, and mobilizes the wider public so that each child and citizen:
  • has access to quality education; a basic human right and an indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development;
  • may grow and live in a cultural environment rich in diversity and dialogue, where heritage serves as a bridge between generations and peoples;
  • can fully benefit from scientific advances;
  • and can enjoy full freedom of expression; the basis of democracy, development and human dignity.
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