After an absence of 5 years… Washington is seeking to rejoin UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today, Monday, that the United States intends to join it again, starting in July, to turn the page on a decade-long dispute with the body that Washington withdrew from in 2018.

“It is a strong step that reflects trust in UNESCO and pluralism,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, while informing representatives of the body’s member states in Paris about Washington’s decision to return.

In turn, US President Joe Biden’s administration announced that the United States will join UNESCO again after a five-year absence since the era of former President Donald Trump.

The US State Department said it delivered a letter late last week requesting readmission to the Paris-based organization.

She added that the letter, written by Richard Verma, US Deputy Secretary of State for Administrative Affairs, dated June 8, “contains the proposed US plan to rejoin the organization.”

“Any such action will require the approval of existing UNESCO members. We understand that UNESCO’s leadership will convey our proposal to member states in the coming days,” the ministry’s statement read. The details of the proposal were not clear.

It is noteworthy that the United States owes a large sum to the organization due to arrears in the payment of dues.

However, early this year, the US administration allocated $150 million within its current budget plan to pay for the costs of returning to UNESCO.

The relationship between the United States and UNESCO has been turbulent over the past four decades after disagreements mainly over ideological issues during the Cold War and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Former President Ronald Reagan withdrew from UNESCO in 1983, but former President George W. Bush rejoined in 2002.

Trump quit the organization in 2017, citing its alleged bias against Israel. Israel announced its withdrawal at the same time, and the withdrawals took effect in January 2018.

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