Will UNESCO blend diplomacy with stubborn optimism for justice?

Apolo Magazine reports:
“The withdrawal of the US from UNESCO in October can be seen as more of the same from a Trump administration that is seeking to pull back from international commitments. The US decision, however, dates back to 2011 when the Obama administration suspended funds after UNESCO State Parties voted to grant Palestine full membership. With full membership came the ability to nominate sites for World Heritage status. The recent full-scale US withdrawal happened as a direct consequence of this and the subsequent declaration of three World Heritage sites in Palestine: Bethlehem (2012); the Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem (2014); and, most controversially, Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (2017). On the day that the decision was announced, the Jerusalem Post captured the Israel delegation’s outraged reaction with its headline ‘UNESCO rules Caves of the Patriarchs as Palestinian….’

The loss to UNESCO of US funds is considerable and is going to have a tangible effect on its ability to carry out its global mission (total US arrears since 2011 is $542,671,681). The announcement of a new director general, Audrey Azoulay, may help smooth the path as she is French of Jewish-Moroccan heritage and her biography is one of multi-culturalism and hope. Her father has long been involved in efforts to find solutions for peace in the Middle East in his role as an advisor to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. Each new director general of UNESCO signals a symbolic renewal, a symbol that has to fit the political climate of the time. UNESCO’s challenge is to successfully gain consent for a material vision of the future that blends diplomacy with stubborn optimism”.
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