WASHINGTON -- With President Reagan's approval, the State Department Thursday formally announced U.S. withdrawal at the end of 1984 from UNESCO because of its 'hostility toward the basic institutions of a free society.'
State Department spokesman Alan Romberg read a prepared statement that said the decision was made after a six-month policy review of U.S. membership in the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
'Now, at the conclusion of that review, we have concluded that continued U.S. participation in UNESCO does not serve the interests of the United States,' the statement said.
'The decision to withdraw was made by President Reagan on the recommendation of' Secretary of State George Shultz, the statement said. 'That recommendation was based upon our experience that UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with; has exhibited hostility toward the basic institutions of a free society, especially the free market and the free press; and has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion.'
The United States and other western countries particularly oppose UNESCO proposals for a New World Information Order, developed in response to objections from Third World nations about reporting from developing countries.
The western opposition centers on authority the plan would give governments to control the press, particularly in those states that have government-owned news agencies. The proposal calls for an international licensing system for journalists, controlled by UNESCO and member governments.
Romberg declined to say whether the decision could be reversed if changes are made in UNESCO during the coming year.
Asked if the withdrawal means the United States no longer is interested in the United Nations, Romberg replied, 'That would be an incorrect conclusion.' The decision to withdraw from UNESCO is not unprecedented.
In 1977, during the Carter administration, the United States withdrew from the U.N. International Labor Organization because it was 'too politicized,' but rejoined in 1980 after reforms were carried out.
UNESCO has grown enormously since its founding in 1946.
Even since 1978, its budget has increased from $112.2 million to the 1984 figure of $374.4 million, and staff increased from 2,380 to 3,658. Only the United States, of the 160 members, vetoed the new budget but still will pay its one-fourth share of the total for the next year.
Romberg said that on Wednesday, Ambassador Jean Gerard, the U.S. representative to UNESCO in Paris, notified Amadou Mahtar Mbow of Senegal, the organization's director general, of the impending U.S. withdrawal.
U.N. rules require a member give a full year's notice of withdrawal from any agency. If nothing happens before Dec. 31, 1984, to change the decision, the United States will be out of UNESCO.
But the State Department said that, even from outside that organization, the United States 'will continue to further international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication that UNESCO was originally created to promote.'
'With regret,' the statement said, 'we have been forced to conclude that we are not now able to effect the major changes in UNESCO that would permit us to continue to participate as a member.
'Other means of cooperation between governments, however, and various forms of private sector activity also, can serve UNESCO's original objectives. To them we will give our support.'
Harold W. Andersen, chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee and president of the Omaha World-Herald, said, 'There have been serious problems at UNESCO. We hope this sends an important message, which, if heeded, might make such a withdrawal unnecessary.' Andersen added his organization will continue to monitor communications issues at UNESCO.