Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 9

ARTS & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Preamble. [ ... ] At its worst, UNESCO, like many other UN agencies, is a functional tragedy of our making, suffering from power politics, lack of resources, ineffectiveness, and material ineptitude.” On the ideological level, UNESCO is full of good intentions, having sprouted from the ideological tradition of humanism in the long shadow of the World Wars. From the beginning, the organisation’s mission was clear: To make sure that the world would never again find itself in a situation where a “great and terrible war” such as the one that had just ended would be made possible by “the denial of the democratic principles of the dignity, equality and mutual respect of men, and by the propagation, in their place, through ignorance and prejudice, of the doctrine of the inequality of men and races” as vividly described in the UNESCO constitution (1945:Preamble). In practice, however, the organisation suffers from imprecision and inefficiency in the implementation of its multiple resolutions, declarations and conventions. Despite these internal issues, UNESCO’s constitutionally embedded idealism provides it with a mandate to implement change in order to steer its members towards a peaceful world. The latest example of the potential for conflict and confusion around and within the organisation was given on the 12 th of October 2017, when the United States Department of State formally notified that it was withdrawing its membership from UNESCO for the second time ( 2017). The withdrawal was officially stated to reflect their concerns with “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” (U.S. Department of State 2017). Following the U.S.’ lead, Israel soon announced it had suspended cooperation with UNESCO as a result of a newly adopted draft resolution, which denied the Jewish connections with the holy sites in Jerusalem. These developments were by no means the first time UNESCO’s credibility has been called into question, and despite its somewhat rocky history with the organisation, the U.S. has been merely one of the founding members to shake the very foundations of UNESCO. The Republic of South Africa, too, withdrew from the organisation in 1956, citing the criticism of its apartheid policy within the organisation (Sewell 1975:326–328), and joined again in 1994 under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. 1984 witnessed the first withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO. Back then, the decision came about as a result of a claimed bias in favour of the Soviet Union and accusations of politicising matters under its authority�especially to do with the communications sector (see Coate 1988). The United Kingdom, for reasons much resembling those of the U.S., cut its ties in 1985, only to join again in 1997. The U.S. rejoined UNESCO in 2003, but withdrew its funding in 2011 as a result of the admittance of Palestine. This led to a financial crisis within the organisation and gave birth to speculations about the need for deeper, structural reforms (Hüfner 2016). These events must be looked at as a serious obstacle to the achievability of the driving ideal behind UNESCO: the construction of a new world built on the principles of 8