Iowa City Expects to Keep 'City of Literature' Status After US Leaves UNESCO

Oct 12, 2017

The Trump administration announced Thursday it is leaving UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, but Iowa City still expects to keep its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon says he is "profoundly disappointed" by the decision, but he does not believe this will change Iowa City’s designation.

"Our relationship is directly with UNESCO as a city," Kenyon says. "The designation was conferred upon Iowa City by UNESCO directly, so I don’t see a way that this would have an impact on that."

Kenyon says his organization does not receive funding from UNESCO or the State Department. He says Iowa City still plans to be the first American city to host a meeting of the Cities of Literature in 2018.

"I think it's all the more important that we do that so that we can show the impact UNESCO has here locally and around the world," Kenyon says. 

But he says this move could make it impossible for other U.S. cities to become new members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

"This is a stumbling block for us, but I don't think it will be insurmountable," Kenyon says. 

A U.S. State Department statement cites "anti-Israel bias" in UNESCO as the reason for leaving the organization. The withdrawal is effective at the end of 2018.