To the dismay of many researchers, the U.S. government announced last week that it would formally withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) based in Paris. The decision—which is not expected to cause major disruptions in UNESCO’s science programs—comes roughly 6 years after the United States stopped contributing funds to the organization because of its recognition of Palestine, and 4 years after the United States lost its UNESCO voting rights.
In a statement issued on 12 October, the U.S. Department of State cited three reasons for its decision: UNESCO has an “anti-Israel bias,” needs “fundamental reform,” and the United States has a mounting financial debt to the organization that, under U.S. law, it cannot pay.
UNESCO expressed “profound regret” at the decision, which will take effect on 31 December 2018. The organization’s director-general, Irina Bokova, highlighted UNESCO’s “interaction with the United States Geological Survey, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with United States professional societies, to advance research for the sustainable management of water resources, agriculture,” as examples of valuable joint work.