The United States announced on October 12 that it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), accusing the body of “anti-Israel bias”.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington would establish an “observer mission” to replace its representation at the Paris-based agency.
UNESCO head Irina Bokova voiced “profound regret” over the U.S. decision, which she called a “loss to multilateralism”.
Irina Bokova said she had received formal notification of withdrawal from the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
In 2011 the US cancelled its budget contribution to Unesco in protest against the admission of Palestine as a full member.
“I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO,” Bokova said in a statement.
But US President Donald Trump’s administration is also reviewing many of its multilateral commitments, pursuing what he calls an “America First” foreign policy.
Nauert said the State Department had notified UNESCO’s outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova of their decision earlier Thursday.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” she said in a statement.
“The United States indicated to the director-general its desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.”