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October 31, 2017


The State Department announced Oct. 12 that the United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the end of 2018, citing U.S. concerns about “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.” The United States stopped paying UNESCO dues in 2011 when the organization accepted Palestine as a full member. A statement issued by the department indicated the United States’ interest in remaining engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise.  The statement indicated a particular interest in protecting world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education. This is not the first time the United States has withdrawn from the international organization, which was established in 1946. President Ronald Reagan cited what he considered UNESCO’s pro-Soviet bias when he withdrew in 1984. The United States rejoined UNESCO in 2002 when President George W. Bush said the United States would participate fully in UNESCO’s mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning. The ABA has a long history supporting UNESCO’s work and urged the United States to renew its membership during the Bush administration. The association maintained that UNESCO had successfully addressed the budget, management and other concerns that led to U.S withdrawal in 1984 and that UNESCO’s mission to promote collaboration among nations in education, science, culture and communications was increasingly important during a time of global opportunities and challenges.


Back to the October 2017 Washington Letter