Between Unesco and the United States, a long history of love lost

The headquarters of Unesco is located in Paris. — Koki Kataoka/AP/SIPA

  • The United States has decided to leave Unesco on 12 October.
  • The country was already removed in 1984, before returning in 2003.
  • The alliance between the United States and Israel explains part of the crisis with Unesco.

The departure of the Member-States of Unesco, the united Nations Organization for education, science and culture, is it a new whim of Donald Trump ? The reality is more complex. Because well before him, another american president, Ronald Reagan, had already withdrawn his country from the institution. It was December 31, 1984, in the midst of the cold War, and Unesco was perceived by some as a”
nest of communists ” by the Americans. These will join again the organization in 2003, under George W. Bush.

Questioned by AFP, the French historian Bertrand Badie believes that this policy of withdrawal practiced by the administration Trump is not new : “Never in the history of the United States have swallowed the multilateralism, analysis-t-it. The withdrawal of the Society of nations (SDN) in 1920 to the introduction of the right of veto in the charter of the united nations, this has always been an obsession of the u.s. not to be constrained by multilateral rules “.

Prior To Trump, Obama

In addition to this historical trend, the Us withdrawal from Unesco also takes its roots in the israeli-palestinian conflict. October 31, 2011, the organization decides to admit Palestine as a member ” full “, which then constitutes a further step towards the recognition of the country as an independent State.

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The right of veto does not exist to Unesco, nor Israel, nor the United States, close allies of Tel-Aviv, can not prevent this input, approved by the majority of member countries. To “punish” the organization, the Obama administration suspends its contribution from the forum cultural, which is seen severed from the remainder of 20% of its budget.

The controversy of Hebron

This policy of retaliation will not prevent Unesco to multiply the actions in favour of Palestine. In June 2012, the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is world Heritage-listed via an emergency procedure, thus becoming the first site in the palestinian classified. The United States say they are ” deeply disappointed “.

In may 2017, the executive board of Unesco adopted a resolution describing Israel as ” an occupying power “. Then last July, the organization said that the old city of Hebron, located in Palestine, is a ” protected area (…) of an exceptional value “. A gesture seen as a “defilement entity” by Israel, argued the jewish history of the city, and which the army protects to Hebron, a few hundred settlers
holed up in an enclave, in the midst of 200,000 Palestinians.

For Francois Heisbourg, advisor of the Foundation for strategic research (FRS), the decision of Donald Trump ” is a logical consequence “, given the us position on the israeli-palestinian issue. “Relatively small “, ” not touching the vital interests “, “the Unesco is an easier target than others,” indicates the specialist to the AFP.