The United States has already left UNESCO once before, in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was president, claiming the organization was “too politicized” and was working against US and western interests. It rejoined 19 years later. Now, 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 U.S. 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.
Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, expressed “profound regret” for the U.S.decision. “Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity,” she said in a statement. The United States stopped paying its dues in 2011 after UNESCO voted to include the Palestinian Authority as a member. The U.S. opposed to fact that in July, UNESCO declared the old city in Hebron, a West Bank town that includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a Palestinian World Heritage Site, a move Israel claims negates Judaism’s links to the biblical town.