The UN and France have voiced deep regrets over the US decision to withdraw from Unesco, the Paris-based UN cultural organisation.The US on Thursday informed the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that it would formally withdraw from the organisation on December 31, 2018 and would seek to remain engaged as a non-member observer state, Xinhua news agency reported. Later, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres through his spokesperson expressed his deep regret over the decision, “considering the major US role in Unesco since its founding”.
Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement that the US withdrawal would be a loss to the UN and “a loss to multilateralism.” “At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues,” Bokova said.
Meanwhile, UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak expressed his concerns that the US move “could have adverse impacts upon the important work of Unesco”. While emphasising the role played by the US in multilateral cooperation, Lajcak stressed the need for its continued engagement in the work of Unesco. Echoing the UN, France also voiced its regret over the US decision to withdrawal “at a time when international support for this organisation is crucial”.
France’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Agnes Romatet-Espagne said “the future of Unesco is of particular importance to France”, while reiterating Paris’ commitment to the UN cultural agency’s “critical actions” that contribute to achieving the UN goal of peace. At the UN Headquarters in New York, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre asked the US not to leave Unesco. He said “we need an America that stays committed to world affairs”.
The US stopped funding Unesco after the organisation voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011. However, since then it had continued to maintained its Unesco office at the organisation’s headquarters in Paris. According to the US State Department, the decision to pull out of the Unesco reflected “US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at Unesco”.
After the US notified the UN organisation about its move, Israel welcomed it. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel’s withdrawal from Unesco on the same date as the US, according to a statement.