US formally returns to UNESCO after 5-year absence

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The United States formally returned to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Tuesday after a five-year absence.

The return to the Paris-based organization was mainly because China has filled the leadership vacuum created by the US departure under Donald Trump. UNESCO's governing board voted last week to approve the re-entry proposal put forward by the Joe Biden government.

A welcome ceremony is planned for the end of July with the hoisting of the flag and the presence of distinguished guests.

“This is excellent news for UNESCO. The momentum we have gained in recent years will continue to grow. Our initiatives will be stronger in the world”, said the general director, Audrey Azoulay.

The Biden administration announced last month that it would call for reinstatement of the organization, which plays a key role in setting the standards for artificial intelligence and technology education. The United States is now the 194th member.

“Our organization is once again moving towards universality,” Azoulay said. The return of the United States is “excellent news for multilateralism as a whole. If we want to face the challenges of our century, the answer can only be collective”.

The Trump administration announced its withdrawal in 2017 because of what it called UNESCO's anti-Israel bias. The decision took effect a year later.

The United States and Israel stopped contributing to UNESCO when it admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011.

The Biden government has requested 150 million dollars from the budget to pay its contribution and arrears to UNESCO. The plan foresees similar orders in the following years until the debt of 619 million dollars is paid off.

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