PARIS – Naming World Heritage sites — places like the Egyptian pyramids or the Statue of Liberty that are given a special U.N. status and protection — is one of the many programs run by UNESCO.
The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has long faced accusations of corruption, mismanagement and political bias in its resolutions and the United States is about to abandon the agency because of what Washington sees as a longstanding anti-Israel bias.
Beyond the diplomatic disputes, here's a look at some things that UNESCO does:
WORLD HERITAGE SITES
The agency's World Heritage Committee each year designates sites considered "of outstanding value to humanity" and intervenes when sites are in danger of destruction or damage. The program provides countries with technical assistance and professional training to preserve the sites, and now includes "intangible" heritage such as folk songs or traditional dances in its lists. A World Heritage site designation is coveted and seen as a boost to local tourism.
UNESCO works to improve literacy throughout the world, with a special focus on girls in poor countries who get little or no schooling. The agency provides teacher training and materials and encourages programs for girls to pursue careers in science.
Like the rest of the U.N., UNESCO was created in response to the horrors of World War II, and particularly Nazi crimes. Amid concerns that the agency's Arab members have used UNESCO to pass anti-Israel resolutions, UNESCO has worked in recent years on Holocaust awareness projects. That includes educational materials in multiple languages and organizing visits to former Nazi concentration camps.
The agency seeks to coordinate climate knowledge, including studies of impacts on UNESCO's network of biosphere reserves, and to improve international education about how global warming occurs and affects people around the world.