After a five-year break, the United States has decided to rejoin UNESCO beginning this July, according to an announcement on Monday.
In late 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from UNESCO reportedly because of anti-Israel bias and the need for better management of the organization. The U.S. had provided an estimated 22% of UNESCO’s budget until 2011 when it stopped providing funding altogether.
U.S. law prohibits funding to any United Nations agency that recognizes Palestinian Authority's demands for their own state, according to Reuters news agency.
UNESCO Dir.-Gen. Audrey Azoulay praised the U.S. decision to rejoin the organization.
“This is a strong act of confidence, in UNESCO and in multilateralism,” said Azoulay in a statement. “Not only in the centrality of the organization’s mandate – culture, education, science, information – but also in the way this mandate is being implemented today.”
The U.S. reportedly rejoined UNESCO to counter China’s growing influence in the organization.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry refrained from commenting on Washington’s decision to rejoin UNESCO but had been informed of the move and also confirmed with the U.S. that it was not opposed. Israel withdrew from UNESCO in 2018, at the same time as the United States.
Azoulay – a French Jewish politician – was elected in 2017 and vowed to restore the agency's efficiency and trust.
“New initiatives have been launched enabling UNESCO to fully tackle contemporary challenges – such as the ethics of artificial intelligence or the protection of the ocean – while emblematic new field campaigns – including the reconstruction of the old city of Mosul, Iraq – have allowed the Organization to reconnect with its historical ambitions,” UNESCO said in its welcoming statement.
The agency also affirmed that new reforms since 2018, “have made UNESCO more efficient and financially sound.”
The U.S. proposal to rejoin UNESCO must now be officially submitted to its member states for approval. Some members have already requested a special session to be held soon to decide, according to Reuters.
The United States initially joined UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) when it was founded in 1945 but withdrew for the first time in 1984 to protest alleged financial mismanagement and anti-U.S. bias. In 2003, almost 20 years later, under President George W. Bush, the U.S. returned to UNESCO, saying that the agency’s reforms were sufficiently improved.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.