Declaration by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay on the withdrawal of Israel from the Organization


In my capacity as Director-General of UNESCO, I was officially notified today by the Israeli Government of Israel’s withdrawal from the Organization effective on 31 December 2018, a decision which was announced on 12 October 2017.

I regret this deeply, as it is my conviction that it is inside UNESCO and not outside it that States can best seek to overcome differences in the Organization’s fields of competence.

A Member of UNESCO since 1949, Israel has a rightful place inside the United Nations agency that is dedicated to education, culture and science. Inside an institution committed to the defence of freedom of expression, the prevention of all forms of antisemitism and racism, which has developed a unique programme of education about the Holocaust and the prevention of genocide. Inside an institution that is among the most active in promoting dialogue among cultures, fighting violent extremism and conserving heritage affected, notably, by the destructive acts of terrorist organizations.

In the face of disagreements among Member States, which lead to votes for which they are responsible, engaging fully in the work of UNESCO makes possible sustained dialogue, cooperation and partnerships that are more necessary than ever and that I committed to support when I took office.

Facts and figures concerning the cooperation between Israel and UNESCO:

Israel has been a member of UNESCO since 16 September 1949 when it also established a National Commission for UNESCO.

Renowned Israeli personalities are associated to UNESCO: Ivry Gitlis as Goodwill Ambassador, sculptor Dani Karavan as Artist for Peace, and Professor Ada Yonath received the UNESCO-L’Oréal For Women in Science Prize in 2008, one year before she won a Nobel Prize.

Israel has ratified 18 UNESCO International Conventions and has nine cultural sites on the World Heritage List :

·       Masada (2001)

·       Old City of Acre (2001)

·       White City of Tel-Aviv -- the Modern Movement (2003)

·       Biblical Tels - Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheba (2005)

·       Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev (2005)

·       Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee (2008)

·       Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves (2012)

·       Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves (2014)

·       Necropolis of Bet She’arim: A Landmark of Jewish Renewal (2015)


Mount Carmel (1996) and Megiddo (2011) are members of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

In 2014, Tel Aviv - Yafo joined UNESCO’s Network of Creative Cities for Media Arts.

Israeli universities host 12 UNESCO Chairs and one UNESCO Centre.

Twenty-five Israeli schools are members of the Associated Schools Network