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UNESCO accepts the US back into the fold after a five-year absence

US rejoins UNESCO after a five year absence
US rejoins UNESCO after a five year absence Copyright Christophe Ena/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Christophe Ena/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Tom Hill
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UNESCO accepts the US back into the fold after a five-year absence

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The United States is to return as a member of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural, educational and scientific agency, following a vote by the majority of its 193 member states on Friday.

“With this return, UNESCO will be in an even stronger position to carry out its mandate,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

The US announced earlier this month that it wanted to return, five years after it withdrew from the agency during the presidency of Donald Trump.

US officials say the decision was motivated by concern that China is filling the gap left by the US in UNESCO policymaking, notably in setting standards for artificial intelligence and technology education around the world.

The US and Israel stopped financing UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011. The Trump administration decided in 2017 to withdraw from the agency altogether the following year, citing long-running anti-Israel bias and management problems.

The Biden administration has already requested $150 million for the 2024 budget to go toward UNESCO dues and arrears. The plan foresees similar requests for the ensuing years until the full debt of $619 million is paid off.

That makes up a big chunk of UNESCO's $534 million annual operating budget.

 Before leaving, the US contributed 22% of the agency's overall funding.

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