Monday September 23, 2019
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Claiming Bias, U.S.A. And Israel Pull Out Of UNESCO

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

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The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen druing a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017. VOA

The United States and Israel officially quit of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.

The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.

The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.

The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Image Source: www.mid-day.com

The U.S. has demanded “fundamental reform” in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state. Since then officials estimate that the U.S. — which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget — has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. Israel owes an estimated $10 million.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.

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Migrants wait in line for food at a camp housing hundreds of people who arrived at the U.S. border from Central America with the intention of applying for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

Officials say that many of the reasons the U.S. cited for withdrawal do not apply anymore, noting that since then, all 12 texts on the Middle East passed at UNESCO have been consensual among Israel and Arab member states.

In April of this year, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO said the mood was “like a wedding” after member nations signed off on a rare compromise resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” and UNESCO diplomats hailed a possible breakthrough on longstanding Israeli-Arab tensions.

The document was still quite critical of Israel, however, and the efforts weren’t enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

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Israel Flag, Pixabay

The State Department couldn’t comment because of the U.S. government shutdown. Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

Also Read: Israel Unanimously Approves Medical Marijuana Exports

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003. (VOA)

Next Story

World Leaders Gathering in New York for United Nations Summit on Climate Change

U.S. President Donald Trump will not be among those attending the summit

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In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani reviews an honor guard at the Mehrabad airport while leaving Tehran, Iran, for New York to attend UN General Assembly, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. VOA

World leaders are gathering Monday in New York for a United Nations summit on climate change as scientists warn much more ambitious action must be taken to meet targets to mitigate the effects.

Some 60 presidents and prime ministers are due to address the day-long event on topics including shifting away from coal toward renewable energy sources, preventing and responding to disasters, and climate finance.

U.S. President Donald Trump will not be among those attending the summit.  He is spending Monday attending a meeting about the persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians, before holding separate talks with leaders from Pakistan, Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, Egypt and South Korea.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sought to highlight the importance of the climate summit and challenged leaders to “come with concrete plans” and not just “beautiful speeches.”

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Some 60 presidents and prime ministers are due to address the day-long event on topics including shifting away from coal toward renewable energy sources. Pixabay

Ahead of Monday’s event, the U.N. released a report compiled by the World Meteorological Organization showing there has been an acceleration in carbon pollution, sea-level rise, warming global temperatures, and shrinking ice sheets.

The report says the average global temperature for the period of 2015 through the end of 2019 is on pace to be the “warmest of any equivalent period on record” at 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which has been ratified by 186 nations, calls for actions to prevent global temperatures from surpassing 2 degrees, and ideally remain within 1.5 degrees by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  One of the world’s biggest emitters – the United States – announced under President Trump that it would leave the pact. The U.S. decision has not stopped climate action at the state, local and private sector levels.

The report warns that in order to achieve the 2 degree target, “the level of ambition needs to be tripled.”

Also Read- Malawi Trying to Find Ways to Contain Overfishing in Its Largest Body of Water, Lake Malawi

Other global issues such as tensions between the United States and Iran; conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Kashmir; rising in equality and intolerance all figure to be themes as the U.N. General Assembly session begins Tuesday. (VOA)