Column: US withdraws from UNESCO, receives mixed responses

Leaders around the world responded to the United States’ decision to withdraw from UNESCO in many ways.

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the public and media Oct. 11, 2017, in an aircraft hangar at the 193rd Special Operations Wing in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the US Air Force

Annie Jennemann is a freshman journalism and English major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

The U.S. State Department announced the decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization at the end of 2018 on Thursday, Oct. 12. After World War II, a United Nations conference was held in 1945 in London to create an educational and cultural organization. This organization has responsibilities including coordinating international cooperation in areas such as education, science, culture and communication. It creates a stronger tie between nations. UNESCO also makes sure children and citizens have access to education, grow and live in a cultural environment and enjoy freedom of expression.

Taken charge by France and the United Kingdom, 44 countries were to be represented in UNESCO, which has existed since Nov. 4,1946. The U.S. has withdrawn from UNESCO in the past. In 1984, it withdrew during former-President Ronald Reagan’s administration, claiming pro-Soviet union bias, according to Politico.

One question is, how will the world react to the United States’ withdrawal from this organization, and will the decision affect the world negatively? Then we must also worry about how this decision will affect us, especially during our country’s current administration. Personally, I believe the decision to leave UNESCO was wrong. My opinion comes from not only my views on President Donald Trump’s administration, but also viewing different opinions from around the world.

The United States’ decision to withdraw from UNESCO rooted from the country’s claim about the “need for fundamental reform” and “anti-Israel bias,” according to the Washington Post. One reaction to the decision has come from Israel. Since the U.S. and Israel are allies, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun to discuss and prepare for Israel to withdraw as well. He has called the U.S. “brave and moral” for its decision, according to France 24 international news.

This is an important topic, and it is crucial to keep allies around the world, but the U.S. is currently struggling internally to keep our own country intact. It is “brave” of us to withdraw, but brave only in a willingness to sacrifice the growth of freedom of expression, democracy and access to education.

France has responded to the decision by urging the U.S. to remain in UNESCO.

Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO and a Bulgarian politician, has responded to the actions with meaningful words about the organization, saying, “Together, we have worked to protect humanity’s shared cultural heritage in the face of terrorist attacks and to prevent violent extremism through education and media literacy.”

Bokova, has expressed “profound regret” about the decision the United States has made.

“At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations leading these issues,” Bokova said in a statement.

With all of the hatred existing in America presently, one of our main focuses should be to enforce the ideals and morals of UNESCO, not abandon it. Along with Bokova, I too express regret for my country disregarding the importance of education and democracy, but also the fight to end violent extremism.

UNESCO is about countries all over the world coming together to encourage democracy, education, science and diversity. These are all key things to create a better America. Once again, our administration has taken a step back from “Making America Great Again.”

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