US Rejoins UNESCO After Decades-Long Dispute

    US Rejoins UNESCO After Decades-Long Dispute
    Last updated Jun 12, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • UNESCO, the UN agency responsible for culture and science, announced Monday that the US will be rejoining the group and paying more than $600M in back dues. The US stopped funding the organization in 2011 after Palestine was included as a member state, before leaving in 2017.
    • US officials say the move is motivated by a desire to counter China's growing influence in the organization, claiming they're filling the gap left by the US in fields such as artificial intelligence and technological education policy. Before 2011, the US contributed around 22% of UNESCO's total budget.
    • UNESCO's director general Audrey Azoulay has called the move "a historic moment," with the US thanking her for depoliticizing the Middle East debate in the organization. The announcement at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters was greeted with applause from world delegations.
    • The US will need approval from UNESCO's 193 member states. China's UNESCO ambassador highlighted the "negative impact" the US withdrawal had on UNESCO, while the Palestinian delegation did not provide comment.
    • In March, US Undersecretary of State for Management John Bass said that the US "can’t afford to be absent any longer" from UNESCO if it wishes to compete with China on the technology front.
    • The Biden admin. is requesting $150M of the US' 2024 budget to go towards paying off the debt to UNESCO. The US has agreed to also pay its 2023 dues plus another $10M towards Holocaust education, preserving Ukrainian cultural heritage, journalist safety, and science and technology education in Africa.


    Narrative A

    The US has decided to break ranks with Israel and dignify an organization that has demonstrated serious animosity towards it. This corrupt organization is used as a cudgel to denigrate Israel and deny any Jewish connection to the Holy Land through their distortions of history. The US should not support an organization that has a history of delegitimizing Israel. America has left before, and perhaps it's time they stay out for good.

    Narrative B

    UNESCO has done much to clean up its act under the leadership of Audrey Azoulay, and diplomats are satisfied that the organization has returned to its original goal of preserving the world's cultural heritage. Without the US involved, there would be no counterweight in the organization against Chinese and anti-Israeli influence, and we all should celebrate a new era of UNESCO.

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