Nikki Haley Welcomes Formal US Departure from UNESCO ‘Cesspool’

By Patrick Goodenough | January 2, 2019 | 2:18 AM EST

UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France (Photo Michel Ravassard/UNESCO)

( – On the day after her tenure as ambassador to the U.N. ended, Nikki Haley on Tuesday welcomed the official U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, describing the U.N. cultural agency as a corrupt and biased “cesspool.”

“UNESCO is among the most corrupt and politically biased U.N. agencies,” tweeted the former ambassador. “Today the U.S. withdrawal from this cesspool became official.”

Also weighing in was another outgoing Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who recalled her efforts in the House to defund UNESCO.

“I fought every year to defund UNESCO in our Congressional budget and we were successful most of the time but these crooks managed to get many Congressional backers because they name pretty places as historical sites as they slam Israel every day,” she tweeted.

January 1 marked the departure of both the U.S. and Israel from the Paris-based agency, long accused by critics of abusing its mandate to push a pro-Palestinian policy.

In 2011, UNESCO became the first U.N. agency to admit “Palestine” as a full member, even though it is not a sovereign state.

That decision cost the agency, since U.S. laws passed in the 1990s prohibit federal funding for any U.N. body that “grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”

Up until then, U.S. taxpayers had been accountable for 22 percent of UNESCO’s operating budget.

The Obama administration complied reluctantly, but urged Congress each year to provide waiver authority to enable the funding to resume. As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen played a key role in blocking those attempts.

UNESCO’s declared mission is “building peace in the minds of men and women” through culture, education and science, and much of its work draws widespread support.

But it has also become known for adopting politically-motivated resolutions in support of Islamic claims to sites whose significance for Jews goes back thousands of years. They include the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the traditional burial place in Hebron of biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In October 2017, the Trump administration announced it was formally withdrawing from UNESCO, citing “continuing anti-Israel bias,” the need for reforms, and concerns about U.S. arrears that have been mounting since the funding was cut. (As of this year, the U.S. “owes” UNESCO some $600 million in dues not paid since the cutoff.)

The U.S. departure that took effect on Tuesday marks the second time an administration in Washington has pulled out of UNESCO.

President Reagan did so in 1984, amid concerns about mismanagement and an agenda viewed as pro-Soviet and anti-Western. President George W. Bush returned in 2003, saying the agency had made important reforms under its then-Japanese director-general, who had taken up his post four years earlier.

Aside from the Israeli-Palestinian issue, UNESCO has also stoked controversy in other areas, including:

--A 2011 decision to grant a life sciences award sponsored by and named for an African dictator.

--A 2013 decision to include the writings of “Che” Guevara to UNESCO’s “Memory of the World Register,” a collection of some of the humankind’s most significant heritage.

--A 2012 decision to establish a UNESCO chair at the Islamic University of Gaza, an institution with close links to the Hamas terrorist group.

--A plan to allow Iran to host UNESCO’s annual World Philosophy Day event in 2010. U.S. pressure led to the agency’s then head to disassociate it from the Tehran event.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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