PARIS (Reuters) – The United States plans to join UNESCO from next July, UNESCO announced on Monday.
The United States withdrew from the United Nations cultural agency in December 2018 under President Donald Trump over accusations of anti-Israel bias and mismanagement.
“This is a strong act of confidence in UNESCO and multilateralism,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in a statement announcing the United States’ support.
UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the Grand Canyon National Park.
The proposed plan must now be submitted to the General Conference of Member States of UNESCO for approval and some Member States have requested that an extraordinary session be held soon to decide.
The United States provided a fifth of the funding for the Paris-based agency, but Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama stopped paying in 2011 when Palestine became a full member because such funding is prohibited by American law. Washington owed $542 million when he resigned.
US laws prohibit funding from any UN agency that involves recognizing Palestinian demands for their own state.
An agreement reached in the US Congress in December 2022 allows Washington to relaunch financial contributions to UNESCO.
Meanwhile, Azoulay – who was elected in 2017 and then vouched for restoring the agency’s efficiency and trust – has introduced reforms in recent years to address the reasons for Washington’s departure.
Israel also withdrew from UNESCO at the same time as the United States.
The United States originally joined UNESCO when it was founded in 1945, but first withdrew in 1984 to protest alleged financial mismanagement and perceived anti-American bias, returning nearly 20 years later. late in 2003 under President George W. Bush, who then declared that the agency had undertaken the necessary reforms.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, William Maclean)