International Relations

Re-admission of the United States to UNESCO

The US first lady raised the flag at UNESCO in Paris to mark Washington’s official re-entry.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
EstablishedNovember 16, 1945
HeadquartersParis, France
Membership195 member states and 10 associate members
MandateInternational cooperation in education, research, culture, and communication is encouraged.
ObjectivesProviding a great education that is inclusive and equal for allCultural heritage protectionScientific research and collaboration are being advanced.Advancing free expressionPromoting intercultural communication
Notable Programs and ActivitiesWorld Heritage Programme: identifies and protects places of exceptional universal importance.Education for All Programme: Ensuring comprehensive and equitable access to high-quality education for all.Promoting sustainable water management and cooperation through the International Hydrological ProgrammeMan and the Biosphere Programme: Promoting Sustainable Development and Natural Resource ConservationThe Intangible Cultural Heritage Programme protects and promotes intangible cultural heritage.

A brief recap

  • Withdrawal of the United States and Israel: The United States and Israel opted to leave UNESCO in December.
  • Engagement’s historical trajectory: The judgements should be viewed in the perspective of a larger historical background.

Causes of Withdrawal

  • Anti-Semitic resolutions: The United States and Israel cited a number of resolutions that they saw as biassed towards Israel.
  • Disdain for multilateralism and the ‘America First’ policy: The United States exhibited a lack of interest in multilateral organisations while prioritising its own interests.
  • The decision was based on rising arrears, the need for reform, and perceived anti-Israel prejudice.
  • Lack of interest in repaying UNESCO debts: The Trump administration saw little reason to repay UNESCO debts acquired since the Obama administration suspended contributions.

Consequences of the withdrawal

  • Impact on UNESCO’s day-to-day operations: The absence of the United States and Israel hampered the organization’s work.
  • Palestinians face only minor consequences: The Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic win was of little political or economic value to Palestinians living under occupation.

Why is the United States rejoining?

  • China’s influence must be counterbalanced: The United States seeks to challenge China’s growing influence in defining global policies on artificial intelligence and technological education.
  • Protect and advance US interests: Reunification enables the United States to protect and advance its interests in cultural heritage preservation, climate change measures, and girls’ education.
  • Reforms and diplomatic initiatives: The United States’ decision to rejoin was influenced by UNESCO’s management reforms and efforts to address concerns.
  • The decision to rejoin UNESCO has won bipartisan support in the United States, ensuring long-term commitment regardless of future political changes.
  • Financial considerations and commitment: The United States intends to complete UNESCO’s financial commitments, including payment of dues and arrears, demonstrating a commitment to supporting critical activities within the organisation.

@the end

The United States’ decision to rejoin UNESCO reflects a deliberate effort to offset China’s influence, safeguard and promote American interests, and participate in worldwide efforts for cultural preservation, climate change mitigation, and education.

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