The United States has withdrawn from Unesco over what it claims is the organisation’s “continuing anti-Israel bias”.
The State Department announced its intention to withdraw from the UN’s cultural, scientific and educational organisation and become a permanent observer instead.
“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at Unesco,” the State Department said in a statement.
The country hopes to remain a non-member, observer state, in order to contribute US opinions and expertise on issues like press freedoms and protecting world heritage, according to the Department.
Unesco was funded in the wake of the Second World War, with the aim of ensuring peace through the free flow of ideas and education.
The US has withdrawn from the organisation once before, during the Reagan administration. Former President Ronald Regan withdrew the country from Unesco in 1984, claiming it was biased in favour of the Soviet Union. President George W Bush rejoined the organisation in 2002. The US stopped funding Unesco in 2011, after the organisation accepted Palestine as a member.
Israel recalled its ambassador to Unesco last year. The organisation had recently adopted two resolutions that Israeli leaders said ignored Judaism’s connection with one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites. Israel’s relationship with Unesco had long been rocky, after officials accused the body of making decisions out of political considerations.