The Welsh slate landscape in Gwynedd is the UK's latest nominee for Unesco World Heritage Site status. Photograph: RCAHMW/PA

Museum sector condemns proposal to withdraw UK from Unesco 

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 14.11.2018
Government should not undermine Britain's role in the scheme, says MA director
Representatives from the UK’s museum and heritage sector have condemned a proposal by the international development secretary Penny Mordaunt to withdraw from the international body Unesco.  

According to the Times, Mordaunt had been preparing to end Britain’s £11.1m annual payment to the cultural and education scheme on the basis that it did not represent good value for money. It follows the US withdrawal from the scheme earlier this year, citing what the Trump administration described as its "anti-Israel bias".

A spokesman for the prime minister has since contradicted Mordaunt and insisted that the UK’s funding for the scheme will continue, according to a subsequent report in the Times. 

Sharon Heal, the director of the Museums Association, said: “Unesco is a valuable multilateral institution which helps to protect museums and heritage and promote education and science around the world - including here in the UK. The government should be supporting the UK’s participation in Unesco, instead of undermining it.”

Roy Clare, the former chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives council, tweeted: “If this measure is carried through it will be short-sighted, ill-timed, irrational, inward-looking, uninformed, unconsulted and irresponsible. Unesco has weaknesses, but these are outweighed by benefits to UK institutions; for communities and peoples; and global opportunities.”
 
On social media, other museum professionals criticised the proposal as “disgusting” and said those advocating it were “incredibly shortsighted”.

The shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry wrote in the Guardian: “If Penny Mordaunt was truly worried about the organisation’s financial difficulties, she would stay inside it and help reform an organisation that Britain helped create. To just walk away instead is an act of political petty-mindedness and shameless cultural vandalism.”

The UK played a key role in the founding of Unesco in 1945, but successive governments have taken different views on the institution. The Thatcher government withdrew Britain's participation in Unesco in 1985 and the country did not rejoin until 1997.  

Mordaunt’s predecessor at the Department for International Development, Priti Patel, also proposed ending the UK’s participation in the scheme in 2016, but was overruled by the prime minister.  

Comments

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15.11.2018, 22:55
Stop the World, Britain wants to get off! Hopefully Penny Mordaunt will resign in a fit of pique over this dog's brexit the PM is trying to force on the country and won't have time the chance to carry out this petty fag packet policy. Splendid isolation is not possible in the age of the global village and in the 21st century the more multilateralism we can encourage the less room there will be for the big powers to throw their weight around. Everyone knows the UN organizations produce more than their fair share of greenhouse gases, but no one has devised anything better so in the meantime...