Cultural leaders took exception recently to the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The move calls for us to remain as observers while relinquishing our voting rights. It’s a complex situation that involves perceived anti-Israeli bias in the organization and American indebtedness. This is not, however, the first time the U.S. has pulled out or used its membership to voice displeasure. President Ronald Reagan cited a pro-Soviet bias for American withdrawal during his administration – we rejoined the organization under President George W. Bush — and President Barack Obama withheld funding when the Palestinian Authority was granted full membership.
Now, however, cultural leaders are wondering if we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water. (Among UNESCO’s accomplishments is its list of significant, potentially endangered World Heritage Sites.)
Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan, had this to say:
“One of our most important responsibilities as museum leaders is to protect cultural heritage and promote international education. For more than half a century The Met and countless other museums have successfully partnered with UNESCO, an organization that has earned the respect of nations and communities worldwide for bringing together curators, conservators and a range of other scholars to educate, preserve, protect, and support the intellectual and artistic traditions of our shared cultural heritage. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO undermines the historic role of the United States as a leader in this effort and weakens our position as a strong advocate for cultural preservation. “Although UNESCO may be an imperfect organization, it has been an important leader and steadfast partner in this crucial work. The Met remains deeply committed to productive engagement with UNESCO and our colleagues around the world who share this important objective.”
For more, visit metmuseum.org and look for WAG’s November “Exploring Arts” issue.