US Withdrawal From the UNESCO led Current Crisis in the Organization

Updated July 31, 2022

The US withdrawal from UNESCO is critical to under geopolitics. The crisis has its origin in 2011 when UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member state. Since then the US has significantly reduced its funding to the institution. Further, UNESCO’s actions like criticizing Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites has led to deteriorating relations between USA and UNESCO.

Israel is USA’s closest ally so recently the USA chose to express its discontentment against UNSECO’s alleged Israel bias by quitting the institution. By withdrawing its membership, USA has possibly attempted to reassert its geopolitical influence in the entire world.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization)

UNESCO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris, France. The main purpose of the UNESCO is to promote international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom.

UNESCO is a subsidiary organization of the United Nations Organization. Many organizations are attached to the United Nations Organization. In order to promote the International stability, United Nation established many agencies including, WHO (World Health Organization), WFO, International Labour Organization along with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. Any countries who are interested in membership of UNESCO can get into this organization.

The Role of the UNESCO

UNESCO functions in consonance with three bodies include The General Conference, The Executive Board and The Secretariat. The General Conference is held after every two years and adopt various programmes. While the executive Board supervises the execution of the programmes, and the secretariat carries out the programmes.

It conducts studies in the member states with the collaboration of non-governmental organization on per capita expenditure on education and public expenditure on education as a percentage of National Income. And, then publish materials of the educational development of its member state on the basis of these studies.

UNESCO works to provide each citizen access to quality education, promotes cultural heritage and equal dignity of all cultures. Some of its main works include designating World Heritage sites in countries across the world and sponsoring cultural and intellectual activities in different nations. It helps in strengthening bonds among nations, helps countries adopt international standards and manages programmes that enable the free flow of ideas and knowledge sharing.

UNESCO plays a significant role in various international programmes through its financial assistance like in the field of education. It has implemented various projects like Universalization of Elementary Education, Projects for Educating the blind and other handicapped children in various countries of the world. UNESCO has also made available and provided different teaching-learning aids and technical services to its member. So, it helps the countries to get the quality as well as quantity of education for the development of the citizens as well as the country.

Causes of US Withdrawal From UNESCO

There are couple of reasons and apparently valid behind US withdrawing its support from UNESCO. It is however, obvious that it is all about interference with its own agenda.

Anti-Israel bias

Since Israel is the closest ally of the US, therefore this step has been taken in support of Israel’s protest. When UNESCO recognized Palestine as an independent state in 2011, USA and Israel were the 14 out of 194 countries that had voted against admitting Palestine. The US has felt that the organization did not support the US stand and show biased against Israel issue. The US has also cited bias by the UNESCO when it went on to designate cultural heritage sites in Jerusalem and the territories of Palestine and did not heed to similar requests by Israel.

Concerns Over-Functioning

US has also shown its concerns over the functioning and working of the UNESCO. It cited immediate reforms in its, especially with respect to spending in programs. US alleged that UNESCO had promoted fake history when it designated Hebron and the two adjoined shrines-the Jewish Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Muslim Ibrahimi Mosque as ‘Palestine World Heritage Site in Danger.’

The US withdrawal from the UNESCO has led to a recent crisis in the Organization. The recent crisis has negatively affected the UNESCO. It has to cut various programs due to crunching in budgets.

Undue Influence of World Powers in the UNESCO

(a) The institution has been influenced by world powers. This has been used as a political stage to showcase their enormous power and influence.

(b) USA learned that UNESCO owes minimal support on certain issues, especially Israel-Palestine issue, even after being the largest contributor.

© When UNESCO criticized the move of the USA to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the US felt that UNESCO is not owed support and taking an anti-Israel stand.

(d) Thus, by leaving UNESCO and by suspending fund wants to send message to all other organizations regarding the consequences of the anti-US stand. Therefore, the US wants to ascertain its influence on most of the global organizations including UN, WTO, UNICEF, etc.

(f) Lack of funding has led to freezing various programmes and have paralysed the UNESCO’s working structure.

Implications of US withdrawal from UNESCO

(a) It has been forced to cut programs, freeze hiring and fill gaps with voluntary contributions as it employs a huge workforce worldwide.

(b) Its current budget is now almost half of what it was ten years ago. It has huge implications for the working of the organization and its aim of building a peaceful world.

(c) UNESCO protects cultural heritage around the world. So, reduced in funding would force UNESCO to cut down heavily on its conservation programs, thereby endangering and ignoring world cultural heritage.

(e) It also has been playing a vital role in environmental conservation with initiatives like UNESCO MAN and BIOSPHERE Programme which will be affected.

(f) It will negatively affect the cultural sphere protection of endangered languages and cultures.

It is unfortunate that such productive works have taken a backseat due to the politicization of UNESCO. The nations now using their financial dues to influence UNESCO’s Programs which aim at making the world a peaceful, prosperous and humanly by reinforcing the values of education, science and culture.

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