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UNESCO in Ohio

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

It was recently in the news that a number of ancient native American sites in Ohio are about to become part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO’s) World Heritage Sites.  

This includes Fort Ancient, Mound City Group, Hopewell Mound Group and more. It is unclear to me whether Serpent Mound in Adams County is included.

UNESCO’s Declaration of Principles (the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972)) states “…a shared commitment to preserve and safeguard the world’s shared legacy of all the nations of the world for future generations…” 

It is understandable that at this time, the world may rush to protect some of the United States’ heritage and cultural sites based on the lack of stewardship we have recently demonstrated in places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

However, rest assured that UNESCO is a toothless wonder, only requiring money to operate while, at least so far, continuing to recognize the sovereignty of the host countries.  

The aforementioned 1972 Declaration of Principles clearly states “…that this Declaration is not legally binding.” Whew! That was close, they just want our money.

The United States was a founding member of UNESCO, but has withdrawn from membership twice.

The first withdrawal was outlined by Time Magazine in 2017: “But, as more members joined the group – about 160 members by July 1983 – U.S. policy makers grew worried their voices would be drowned out. The newest members were ‘largely the decolonized new independent states of Africa and Asia’ who ‘tended to be less supportive of American policies, and more supportive of the Soviet bloc’s position,’" said Pubantz [political scientist Jerry Pubantz].

“In addition, some U.S. officials soured on the group because, despite the new members, they felt the U.S. was left footing a disproportionate amount of the bill for UNESCO’s work. Or as Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who represented the U.S. at the U.N. put it, ‘The countries which have the votes don’t pay the bill, and those who pay the bill don’t have the votes,’ as Time reported in a Jan. 9, 1984, article.”

We rejoined UNESCO in 2003.  

The second time the U.S. withdrew was in 2017 when Time stated the U.S. reason for withdrawing as, "mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”

The Biden Administration rejoined UNESCO on July 10, 2023, just over two months ago. Feels to me something like giving $6 billion to Iran, despite sanctions. Perhaps the Biden Administration thinks rejoining UNESCO and getting some UNESCO cred in Ohio will help in the 2024 election.  

Of course, to mark the first anniversary of the death of Masha Amini in police custody in Tehran last year, the Biden Administration just announced new sanctions on Iran on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, four days after giving $6 billion back to Iran on Sept. 11.

Don’t feel alone if the current foreign policy of the United States leaves your head spinning.  

But the most sobering thing in foreign relations I read this week was this: Both China and Russia have successfully developed and are deploying hypersonic (5x the speed of sound) ballistic missiles while the Pentagon is still in the early days of struggling to develop similar technology.   

Currently, technology does not exist to effectively shoot down these hypersonic weapons with 100 percent accuracy. It is hard to focus on pacifism when there is a knife at your throat.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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