Last week, the State Department announced that the U.S. will withdraw from UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, which, among other activities, designates World Heritage Sites of architectural and cultural significance.
The Trump administration’s stated reasons for leaving the organization include UNESCO’s “anti-Israel bias” and past-due debts of more than $500 million. The U.S. would, however, remain as a non-member observer still contributing “views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization.”
This week, the professional organization American Institute of Architects (AIA), has a response. Thomas Vonier, President of the AIA, released a statement in support of UNESCO and urging the U.S. to continue working with the organization, underscoring its importance for protecting culturally important sites around the globe.
“The American Institute of Architects has long supported the cultural mission of UNESCO, and especially its World Heritage Sites program, which seeks to identify and preserve buildings and places of exceptional importance to humankind,” reads Vonier’s statement. “We hope and expect that the United States will continue to work with global stakeholders to protect such sites.”
The statement also mentions a new UNESCO initiative with the International Union of Architects (UIA), which would designate a World Capital of Architecture every two to three years, reinforcing “the value and importance of architecture and design in human affairs.” The AIA also urges the administration to offer support to this effort.
In other preservation news, the international non-profit World Monuments Fund just released its biennial list of global heritage sites in need of safeguarding and the Washington, D.C.-based organization The Cultural Landscape Foundation has done the same for open spaces.