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UNESCO: U.S. to Rejoin in July

UNESCO has announced that the United States will rejoin the agency in July, four years after leaving due to allegations of bias against Israel. The move to rejoin will require a vote by member states, but is expected to pass easily. UNESCO promotes educational, scientific and cultural causes, and designates World Heritage Sites globally.

US Withdraws from UNESCO due to Palestine’s Membership:

The US stopped funding UNESCO, worth millions of dollars, in 2011 after Palestine became a member of the agency. This decision was made by then President Barack Obama, who halted the funding due to Palestine’s status as a non-sovereign state, not recognized by the United Nations. Although Palestine was included as a non-member observer state in 2012, granting them participation in General Assembly proceedings, they lacked voting rights. Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, supported the US decision, objecting to the “politicisation of UNESCO” caused by Palestine’s membership.

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Palestinian-Israeli Conflict and UNESCO’s Role:

The Palestinians claim territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war for their own independent state, while Israel believes that UN recognition is an attempt to pressure them into concessions. This has led to tensions and a pushback against UNESCO’s alleged anti-Israel bias, including criticism of its occupation of East Jerusalem and declaring ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. US laws prohibit funding to any UN agency that recognizes Palestinian demands for their own state but an agreement was reached in 2022 to resume funding for UNESCO.

Impact of US Withdrawal from UNESCO:

The US decision to withdraw from UNESCO in 2017, citing unpaid dues and China’s influence in setting global education and technology standards, created a funding shortfall of up to $600 million. Israel also reduced funding before exiting the agency. The US has now rejoined UNESCO for various reasons, including concerns over China’s role in policy making and technology education.

US Early Withdrawal from the UN:

The US Withdraws from the UN in the Past

During the presidency of Ronald Reagan in 1984, the US exited from UNESCO as it perceived the agency to be poorly managed, fraudulent, and a tool of Soviet advancement. After nineteen years, the US returned to the organization in 2003 led by George Bush, who expressed that the country will participate entirely in the mission of UNESCO to elevate human rights, learning, and tolerance, signifying commitment to human dignity.

Important Takeaways For All Competitive Exams:

● UNESCO Director General: Audrey Azoulay
● UN Chairman: António Guterres