WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States has announced that it will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of 2018, citing a need for reform and an anti-Israel bias in the organization, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday.
The decision reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization and continuing anti-Israel bias, Nauert said. She added that the decision would take effect on December 31, 2018, but the United States will then assume an observer status at UNESCO.
UNESCO Pull out Will Likely Backfire on US
The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO will back-fire, exposing the increasing isolation that the United States suffers in the United Nations, University of San Francisco Professor of International Affairs Stephen Zunes told Sputnik on Thursday.
"This move underscores the isolation of the United States in the world body. It reflects more negatively on the United States than on UNESCO," he said. "This bizarre move increases the isolation of the United States in the international community."
"The administration’s decision will likely increase US negative perceptions of UNESCO making it more difficult for some future and more enlightened US president to rejoin the organization," he said.
However, UNESCO would succeed in weathering the impact of full US withdrawal and would continue to do valuable work, Zunes advised.
"UNESCO will certainly survive and endure. It has a great legacy. UNESCO has done and continues to do a lot of valuable work. It preserves global heritage sites around the world, and does a lot of work for women’s rights and for education in the most remote regions of poor countries," he said.
"The United States is not the predominant power in the organization and it has not been for some time," he said.
Nor will the Trump administration’s decision have any immediate effect on the functioning of UNESCO as the previous Obama administration had already suspended US financial contributions, Zunes recalled.
"These [contributions] were and would have been considerable. The contributions of every country to UN organizations are assessed as a proportion of total GDP so a full 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget came from the United States," he said.
Legally, UNESCO could have expelled the United States in recent years for its failure to pay its dues, Zunes noted.
"UNESCO has not done anything controversial with toward Israel for quite a few years. Indeed, Israel is a member of UNESCO and unlike the United States it is not leaving it. So Trump’s decision is totally, completely bizarre," he said.
The only thing that the Trump administration could point to was UNESCO’s decision to grant membership to Palestine in 2010, Zunes remarked.
However, the Palestinians had used their membership in some very responsible ways, he added.
US Seeking to Keep UN, UNESCO Weak
Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of UNESCO was part of Washington’s ongoing campaign to keep the United Nations and its associate organizations powerless from helping the Palestinians, University of Illinois Professor of Law Francis Boyle said.
"Historically the US government has always bullied, threatened and intimidated the United Nations Organization and all of its specialized agencies and institutions like UNESCO in order to prevent them from taking meaningful action against Israel to save the Palestinians," he said.
President Ronald Reagan previously pulled the United States out of UNESCO in 1984 but 18 years later, President George W. Bush and his secretary of state Colin Powell brought the United States back into the organization in 2002.
UNESCO was set up at a United Nations educational and cultural conference in London in 1945 after the end of World War II. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural advancement.