October 20, 2017
Dear Members of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO,
On October 12, 2017, the United States announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and seek to establish a permanent observer mission to the organization. According to the UNESCO Constitution, this withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018. Until then, the United States will remain a full member of the organization and continue to serve as an elected member of the Executive Board.
This decision was the result of a long interagency deliberative process and was not taken lightly. It reflects our concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing politicization of the organization, including in actions that single out Israel and promote anti-Israel bias.
We have indicated our intention to remain engaged on UNESCO issues as a non-member observer state, similar to what occurred when we withdrew from the organization in 1984. The outlines of such participation, however, remain to be worked out with the new Director-General and approved by the Executive Board.
The United States intends to seek authorization to continue to attend the Executive Board and General Conference as observers once we have withdrawn. The United States will also seek to continue to participate in programs and activities such as World Heritage, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the International Hydrological Program, and Man and the Biosphere. The exact dimensions of U.S. participation after our withdrawal takes effect remain to be defined.
We want to assure you that withdrawal does not alter U.S. policy of supporting international cooperation in educational, scientific, cultural, communication and information activities where doing so advances U.S. interests.
We will remain in touch as the United States works to further define our participation at UNESCO after 2018. Until that time, we will continue our engagement as a full member of the organization and will continue to support UNESCO’s implementation of its mandate in service to peace and human understanding. We also want to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to the members of the U.S. Commission for your dedication and service in promoting these ideals, both in the United States and internationally.
Paul T. Mungai, PhD
Executive Director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, acting
U.S. Department of State