The United States announced its intention Thursday to withdraw from UNESCO, citing concerns about the organization's "continuing anti-Israel bias." The U.S. helped found the organization, which promotes education, culture, and science worldwide, after World War II. America will stay on as a UNESCO observer, a State Department announcement said:
It is not the first time the U.S. has withdrawn. "The Reagan administration decided to withdraw from the organization in 1984, at the height of the Cold War, citing corruption and what it considered an ideological tilt towards the Soviet Union against the West," Foreign Policy writes. "President George W. Bush rejoined the organization in 2002, claiming it had gotten its books in order and expunged some of its most virulent anti-Western and anti-Israel biases."
In 2011, the Obama administration cut $80 million a year from its UNESCO budget in response to the organization's inclusion of Palestine as a member. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson additionally wants to save money with the withdrawal, avoiding the $500 million owed to the agency due to American funding cuts.
"For us, it is important to have the United States on board, including at UNESCO at this critical juncture," said France's U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, prior to America's announcement. "We consider the U.S. must stay committed to world affairs." Read more about the decision at Foreign Policy.