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18 October 2017
Stand Up For U.S. Support of UNESCO
United States full engagement in UNESCO is essential for world progress in Science, Education, and Cultural Heritage.  Unfortunately, this past week President Trump, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson announced that the US will withdraw from its membership in UNESCO on December 31st, 2018.
 
Ambassador Haley stated their criticism of UNESCO's historic preservation designation and purported labeling of the City of Hebron and its historic religious monuments as being "Palestinian", and therefore an insult to Israel.  Yet "Palestine" was listed in parentheses at the end of the designation, simply as the place of the Site, not intending to indicate the monument was Palestinian. The sites in fact are fully recognized by UNESCO as being monuments of great significance throughout history to Jews, Christians and Muslim alike
 
The very nature of this concern to recognize the interests and common heritage of monuments is the reason for one of the key UNESCO missions, the preservation of Historic Cultural monuments throughout the world.  UNESCO works to foster and preserve progress through international cooperation for education, science, culture and communication among and for all of its 197 member nations. Even the US receives significant tourism income from visitors to the US sites designated as historic by UNESCO.
 
The full engagement of the US is central to the well-being of UNESCO’s mission and work to bring about cooperation and mutual understanding among all nations on these most central issues. UNESCO is the one UN agency that brings the leaders of education and science of all nations together to improve the excellence of education at all levels. It has been at the forefront of the dramatic progress in bringing a majority of children into school with opportunities for higher level education and science. One of UNESCO’s valuable science activities is the provision of a global warning system for threats from tsunamis and other natural weather phenomena. Such human development and progress is dependent on such engagement and underpin the world's ability to reduce poverty and inequity, to foster respect among diverse cultural, ethnic and religious groups, which lead to good governance, peace, health and gender equity.
 
Likewise, UNESCO's responsibility and mission to designate and protect Cultural Heritage sites is paramount today in view of the destruction by ISIS, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, which are destroying monuments with offense to all religions and cultures.

When there are differences of opinion or misunderstanding among member states' perspectives surrounding the plans by UNESCO, those differences must be addressed through civilized dialogue, which are the very touchstones of UNESCO's purpose, mission and process.  The decision by the US Administration, and now also Israel, to leave this unique forum only serves to undermine the opportunity for U.S. leadership on these important issues to help seal opportunity for human peace and security. Historically, the US along with Israel, supports the mission of UNESCO: "the historical devotion for all people to enjoy the full freedom of expression for the basis of democracy, development and human dignity." Standing on the sidelines will only distance the US from all 195 other members of UNESCO.  This stance will be more costly to the US standing in global affairs than the savings of its dues owed to UNESCO. 
 
In 2013, the 200 member chapters of the World Federation of UN Associations representing over 90 countries endorsed a resolution presented by UNA-NCA for the US to return to a full dues paying member in UNESCO.

It had withdrawn in 2011 because Palestine had been welcomed as a member by an overwhelming number of the country members.  Unfortunately, that resolution was not acted upon by the past Administration, nor by the US Congress. The Trump Administration’s decision to now fully withdraw from UNESCO membership will be seen by the rest of the world, and by a majority of US citizens, as a retreat from thoughtful participation in the values of global education, science, the environment, and cultural preservation.  

We urge all of our members to speak out and advocate to our Administration, and our leaders in Congress from all states and communities to reverse this decision and rejoin all nations to be devoted together for our common needs for UNESCO's support and mission.  

In June 2015, the UNA-NCA's Board of Directors adopted a resolution to support UNESCO which was presented and discussed at UNA-NCA's annual membership meeting. See resolution here.
 

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