Britain Following Lead of U.S., Will Withdraw From UNESCO

Associated Press

Britain announced today that it is following the lead of the United States and withdrawing from UNESCO because, it said, the 160-nation organization is inefficient, spendthrift and “harmfully politicized.”

Timothy Raison, minister of state for overseas development, said Britain’s membership in the U.N. agency will end as of Dec. 31.

Britain was one of the founding members of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, created in London in 1945.


Raison said Britain plans to retain observer status in the organization.

Bilateral Programs

He said Britain will put the money it would have contributed to UNESCO--$9.75 million--into bilateral programs going to the Third World, particularly members of the British Commonwealth.

“We are determined that our support for the United Nations should be seen as support for effective and efficient organizations. Unfortunately, UNESCO is not such a body,” Raison said.

Britain has closely examined reforms undertaken by UNESCO since the United States withdrew at the end of last year and since Britain announced its intention of withdrawing a year ago, he said. The results, he said, “fall well short of what we believe would justify continued British membership.”

Raison said that some of UNESCO’s work is “harmfully politicized” and that there is inefficient management and “excessive expenditure” at the organization’s Paris headquarters.

‘Never Subject to U.S. Pressure’

Asked whether Britain was pressed by the United States to follow suit in withdrawing, Raison said, “We have never been subject to pressure to leave UNESCO by the U.S. government.”

On Nov. 22 last year, Britain gave the required year’s notice of withdrawal from UNESCO unless the organization undertook reforms to give its work “more value for money.”


Britain had contributed $9.75 million a year to UNESCO, or 4.6% of the organization’s annual budget.

The United States had contributed 25% of the budget.

Both countries have criticized UNESCO for bad management, politicizing its programs and giving them an anti-Western bias, and spending too much money on its Paris headquarters and not enough on field projects.

Radical Initiatives

Britain and the United States have said UNESCO has become a forum for Soviet and radical Third World initiatives against a free press, human rights and Western positions on arms control.

Britain had withheld its final decision on UNESCO membership until after a UNESCO general conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, which ended Nov. 8, in the hopes that sufficient reforms would be charted.

A House of Commons report earlier this year recommended that Britain remain in the organization, and when West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited London on Nov. 27 he reportedly urged Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to work for reforms within the organization.

Several other Western European countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark, have indicated strong dissatisfaction with UNESCO, but whether there will be further withdrawals is unknown. Singapore has said it will pull out at the end of the year.