The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), dealing a further blow to an organization hobbled by regional rivalries and a lack of funds.
Reuters quoted the US State Department as confirming that the country is officially withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body it helped found back in 1945.
The move is to take effect on December 31, Washington announced.
Unesco said the withdrawal was a loss to the “UN family” and to multilateralism.
The agency is known for designating world heritage sites such as Syria’s Palmyra and the US Grand Canyon.
Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier on Thursday that Washington would formally withdraw after the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board selects its new director general on Friday.
The magazine said the decision was aimed at saving money and to protest what the US believes is UNESCO’s anti-Israel stance.
The United States, which has contributed around $80 million a year to UNESCO, accounting for around a fifth of its budget, still has a vote on the board and is expected to keep an observer status at the organization.
President Donald Trump has in general been critical of the United Nations and complained about the cost and value to the United States of some of its affiliate institutions.
“The absence of the United States or any large country with a lot of power is a loss. It’s not just about money, it’s promoting ideals that are vital to countries like the United States, such as education and culture,” a UNESCO-based diplomat said.
It is also understood that for various reasons, Britain, Japan and Brazil are among states that have yet to pay their dues for 2017.