According to Foreign Policy, the USA pays tens of millions in annual dues to UNESCO and also owes the agency over $500 million as a result of its 2011 funding cuts.
In notifying UNESCO of the decision Thursday morning, the State Department said it would like to remain involved as a nonmember observer state.
Israel has been aggrieved by a succession of UNESCO motions condemning its actions in Jerusalem, complaining that the motions did not take into account Jewish links to the city and the disputed holy site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
"The government is committed to continued United Kingdom membership of UNESCO and to working with other member states in support of its important work", A spokesperson of British Prime Minister Theresa May stated.
A press statement from the State Department says the decision was also based on "the need for fundamental reform in the organization" as well as stacking up bills the USA owes UNESCO.
For instance, in 1984, the Reagan administration took out its frustration with the United Nations on UNESCO over accusations of anti-US, pro-Soviet bias at the United Nations (it took until 2002 for the US to rejoin).
The withdrawal is part of the USA administration's desire for wider United Nations reforms and if UNESCO goes back to addressing only culture, Washington "might take another look on it", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. US President Donald Trump's Administration also had no provisions in next year's budget for this goal, The Time wrote.
Washington has already withheld its funding for UNESCO since 2011, when the body admitted Palestine as a full member. But it does not necessarily foreshadow a further retrenchment of USA engagement with the United Nations, which the Trump administration has been pushing to bring about strutural and financial reforms.
In 2011 the U.S. and Israel were two of only 14 nations out of 194 UN members who voted against the inclusion of Palestine. "By pulling away, the United States will undermine efforts to reform UNESCO moving forward", he said.
The membership of the UN carries with it a right to the membership to UNESCO, according to Article II of the UN Constitution. It trains Afghan police officers how to read and write, and is the only United Nations agency that has a program to teach the history of the Holocaust.
The withdrawal decision comes as UNESCO members are voting on a replacement for Bokova. The Paris-based agency's executive board is in the midst of choosing a new chief with Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the heated election heading into Friday's final vote.
Tensions have returned in recent years.
Israeli and U.S. media have reported that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is compiling a list of companies that operate in the West Bank, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. "So this had to come to an end", she said.
She added: "The American poet, diplomat and Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish penned the lines that open UNESCO's 1945 Constitution: 'Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.' This vision has never been more relevant".
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United States withdraws from UNESCO
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