The US formally returned to UNESCO after a 5-year absence

FILE – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) logo is seen during the 39th session of the General Conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Saturday, November 4, 2017. The United States formally returned to UNESCO after a 5-year absence on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, file) (Christophe Ena/)

The United States became a full member of UNESCO todayan organization that had left in 2018 during the presidency of Donald Trump.

The official welcome was communicated by the UN Organization for Education, Science and Culture, which already on June 30 had approved, at an extraordinary conference in Paris, the immediate re-entry plan proposed from Washington, which included the payment of a million-dollar debt dating from 2011.

“The return of the United States to UNESCO is already a reality: it has once again officially become a Member State of our Organization”, celebrated the director general of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulayit’s a statement.

This is excellent news for Unesco, whose renewed momentum in recent years will be further strengthened. Our action will be stronger all over the worldAzoulay added.

The re-entry, with which Unesco now has 194 members, became effective automatically after the US government signed and deposited the organization’s constitutive act, a process that ended this Tuesday.

This is a step, according to Azoulay, that not only strengthens the Paris-based agency, but also multilateralism.

“This is a historic moment. Our organization moves once again towards universality. I also want to share this victory for UNESCO with the whole United Nations family, because it is excellent news for multilateralism as a whole. If we want to face the challenges of our century, there can only be a collective response“, he pointed.

FILE PHOTO: A UNESCO sign at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.  May 29, 2023. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
FILE PHOTO: A UNESCO sign at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. May 29, 2023. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq (STEPHANIE LECOCQ/)

The United States had made official its intention to return to UNESCO at the beginning of June, a proposal that was accompanied by a financial plan that included not only paying its contribution as a member corresponding to 2023, but a calendar to pay off the debt of 619 million that it accumulated between 2011 and his departure from the organization, in addition to other voluntary contributions.

Specific, will make a contribution of 150 million extra each year from 2024which will be added to the mandatory annual membership fee (around 30 million) and extra voluntary contributions.

The plan was submitted for review at an extraordinary conference in Paris at the end of June, so that the American turn could be closed in July. The then 193 members gave majority support to the initiative, with only ten votes against (Russia and Palestine, China, Iran, Belarus, Nicaragua, Syria, Indonesia, North Korea and Eritrea).

The United States had announced that it was leaving UNESCO at the end of 2017during the term of the previous president, Donald Trump, who accused the institution of repeatedly adopting anti-Israeli positions.

Washington had already left UNESCO in 1985, during the Ronald Reagan presidency, and returned in 2003.

In addition, in 2011, when Barack Obama was in the White House, the United States had frozen its mandatory annual contribution as a member of the organization, in application of a congressional legislation in reaction to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of UNESCO.

But in a letter sent to Unesco on June 8, the State Department claimed to have taken note of the organization’s “efforts” to “implement key managerial and administrative reforms, as well as to reduce politicized debate, especially as it relates to the Middle East.”.

Washington thus expressed its willingness to re-enter the organization as soon as possible, a turn in line with the return to multilateralism of the Joe Biden Administration.

To get around the internal legislative obstacles related to Palestine, the US Congress last December promoted an exception by agreement between Republicans and Democrats that allows Unesco to be financed again.

The United States will thus once again be the main contributor to the basic budget of the organization, which is then supplemented with voluntary contributions for an amount that in recent years was almost equal to the mandatory contributions.

(With information from AP)

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