WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would withdraw from Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, after years of America distancing itself because of what it called the group’s “anti-Israel bias.”
“This decision was not taken lightly,” according to a State Department statement on Thursday. Along with the anti-Israel bias, the department also cited “the need for fundamental reform” and “mounting arrears” at the organization.
While the United States withdrew from the group, the Trump administration said it wanted to continue to be engaged with Unesco to provide American perspective and expertise, but as a nonmember observer. The United States withdrawal goes into effect at the end of 2018.
Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known for its designation of world heritage sites, is a global development agency with missions that include promoting sex education, literacy, clean water and equality for women.
The Obama administration cut off funding to Unesco in 2011 because the group admitted Palestinians as full members, which the United States saw as undercutting its influence in countries around the world. America lost its vote in the organization in 2013 because it ended its financial contributions.
In July, Unesco declared the ancient and hotly contested core of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage Site.