Paris, 4 July, 2023 (GNP): The United States has officially rejoined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after six years of absence. It’s a significant move towards strengthening international collaboration and promoting cultural preservation. The decision came following a resounding 132-10 vote by UNESCO member states in favor of the United States’ readmission.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay expressed her delight at the United States’ return, highlighting the significance of this moment for both UNESCO and multilateralism. In a statement, she stated, “Building upon the momentum achieved in recent years, our organization is once again moving towards universalism with this return of the United States.”
The United States initially announced its withdrawal from UNESCO in 2017 during the Trump administration. However, its funding had ceased earlier in 2011 when UNESCO granted Palestine full membership, triggering laws that prevented U.S. participation in United Nations organizations recognizing Palestine as a full member. At that time, U.S. contributions constituted a substantial 22 percent of UNESCO’s annual budget.
This is not the first time the United States has left and subsequently rejoined UNESCO. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan cited concerns of corruption and bias towards the Soviet Union as reasons for departure. Nearly two decades later, under President George W. Bush’s leadership, the United States rejoined in 2003.
A few months ago, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his case to Congress that the country should rejoin once again. The Biden administration has allocated $150 million for the organization and committed to addressing the accumulated debt of over $600 million from 2011 to 2017.
Secretary Blinken underscored the significance of UNESCO’s work, stating that the United States seeks to rejoin “not as a gift to UNESCO, but because things that are happening at UNESCO actually matter.” He highlighted the organization’s efforts in shaping rules and standards for artificial intelligence, emphasizing the United States’ desire to be an active participant in such discussions.
While the United States’ readmission received overwhelming support from member states, ten dissenting votes were cast by Russia, North Korea, Palestine, Belarus, China, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Nicaragua, and Syria.