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City and county leaders respond to US decision to leave Unesco

U.S. decides to leave Unesco

SAN ANTONIO- The United States has decided to leave the organization that designated San Antonio’s Mission's as World Heritage sites.

The Missions here in San Antonio were designated World Heritage Sites back in 2015 by UNESCO, we spoke with city and county leaders today who say they don't think this recent decision will affect that designation.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says it took the county and city close to 9 years to receive that designation.

"When we went up there it was probably one of the greatest moments of my life because when we got it received a round of applause from the delegates that were there, I think they represented about 15 or 20 countries, they came up and congratulated us, they did that in spite of the fact that the United States wasn't paying their dues, so there is respect in UNESCO,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO in 2011. The state department says the U.S. is now removing themselves from the organization because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and need for "Fundamental Reform".

"We knew then that the United States had not paid its dues and that perhaps would be a reason not to designate it, but to their credit, they look at the merits of the designation and gave us the World Heritage Designation,” said Judge Wolff.

The U.S. State Department says they will seek to have a "permanent observer" status.

They would not be a member, but participate in activities. Mayor Ron Nirenberg says the city's world heritage office has told him it will have no effect on the missions.

"It won't have an effect on our redevelopment and also the maintenance of our world heritage site and the missions, so we will observe it and at this point all of our plans continue,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The U.S. withdrawal will not take effect until December 31st of 2018.


A letter from the City of San Antonio:

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 12, 2017) — Today, the Trump administration announced that the United States plans to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) effective Dec. 31, 2018. This decision is not anticipated to impact the San Antonio Missions’ designation as a World Heritage Site.

“We are proud of the San Antonio Missions’ World Heritage designation, and we are happy that status is not expected to change. The missions deserve the recognition,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “The Missions are a world-class heritage site and their importance locally and internationally is unquestioned.”

After nearly a decade of work by the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas General Land Office, National Park Service, San Antonio River Authority, Archdiocese of San Antonio, elected officials and other community partners, the missions were designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 5, 2015. They are the only World Heritage Site in Texas and the catalyst for renewed growth and development on San Antonio’s Southside.

“Sadly, this decision isn’t shocking,” said District 3 City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, whose district is home to four of San Antonio’s five missions. “Withdrawing from UNESCO is a shortsighted move that is more about politics, not about sound public policy. The international bonds San Antonio has solidified as a result of the World Heritage designation are invaluable to us as a community and growing city. We must continue to work together, not isolate ourselves, to strengthen San Antonio’s status as a global city.”

In 2015, Councilwoman Viagran began a two-year public engagement process that resulted in the World Heritage Work Plan. District 3 and the World Heritage Office will continue to implement the work plan with a focus on specific tasks and deliverables in the following categories: management and oversight, infrastructure, wayfinding, transportation, beautification, economic development, land use, and marketing and outreach. The work plan is coordinated with the Alamo Master Plan effort that is also underway.

For more information, visit www.sanantonio.gov/WorldHeritage.

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