Israel Withdraws From UNESCO After US; UNESCO Regrets Decisions
The US decision marks a loss for multilateralism and for the UN family. (Photo: iStock)
The US decision marks a loss for multilateralism and for the UN family. (Photo: iStock)

Israel Withdraws From UNESCO After US; UNESCO Regrets Decisions

The United Nations' cultural agency will elect a new chief on Friday, seeking someone who can revive UNESCO's fortunes after the United States and Israel pulled out.

Whoever gets the job will have to restore relevance to the agency whose mission to protect the world's cultural and natural heritage has been hobbled by regional rivalries and a lack of money.

After four days of secret balloting at UNESCO’s Paris HQ, Qatar’s former culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari qualified for the final vote, scheduled for Friday evening.

He will face off against either Moushira Khattab, an Egyptian diplomat and politician, or Audrey Azoulay, a former French culture minister, whichever woman wins a ballot on Friday afternoon

US, Israel Quit UNESCO

The United States and Israel announced on Thursday, 12 October, they were quitting the UN's cultural agency, UNESCO, after Washington accused it of anti-Israeli bias.

The withdrawal of the United States, which is meant to provide a fifth of UNESCO's funding, is a major blow for the Paris-based organisation, founded after World War II to help protect cultural and natural heritage around the world.

Within a few hours after the US decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would quit too, calling the US decision "brave and moral".

UNESCO director general Irina Bokova expressed disappointment.

At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO director general

The United States and Israel were among just 14 of 194 members that voted against admitting the Palestinians.

The United States had cancelled its substantial budget contribution to UNESCO in 2011 in protest at a decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

Although Washington supports a future independent Palestinian state, it says this should emerge out of peace talks and it considers it unhelpful for international organisations to admit Palestine until negotiations are complete.

Today is a new day at the UN where there is price to pay for discrimination against Israel.
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN

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