US, Israel withdraw from UNESCO, accusing the cultural body of ‘anti-Israel bias’

The United States and its ally Israel officially withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with the close of the year 2018. The two nations had announced their intention to quit the international organization in October 2017, accusing it of anti-Israel bias.

Speaking on the decision, the US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert had said that the decision was not taken lightly and it reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization and continuing anti-Israel bias.

The decision comes as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is voting to choose a new director, intense balloting overshadowed by the agency’s funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership.

This is the second such instance when the US has withdrawn itself from a major multilateral commitment after President Donald Trump took charge, first being its withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. It underlines Trump’s ‘America First’ policies.

The outgoing Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, called the US withdrawal a ‘loss to multilateralism’, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he ‘regrets this development deeply’.

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