First Lady Jill Biden to mark US reentry into UNESCO with flag-raising ceremony in Paris

United States First Lady Jill Biden is in Paris to attend a flag-raising ceremony at UNESCO, marking the United States’ official reentry into the United Nations’ educational, scientific and cultural organization after a five-year hiatus

Thomas Adamson
Tuesday 25 July 2023 09:53 BST

United States First Lady Jill Biden is in Paris on Tuesday to attend a flag-raising ceremony at UNESCO, marking the United States’ official reentry into the United Nations’ educational, scientific and cultural organization after a five-year hiatus.

Biden will also make remarks about the importance of American leadership in preserving cultural heritage and empowering education and science across the globe.

The U.S. had announced its intention to rejoin UNESCO in June, and the organization’s 193 member states earlier this month voted to approve the U.S. reentry. Tuesday’s ceremony, which will also feature a speech by UNESCO’s Director General Audrey Azoulay, will formally signify the U.S. becoming the 194th member of the body.

The U.S. decision to return to the Paris-based UNESCO was based mainly on concerns that China has filled a leadership gap since the U.S. withdrew during the Trump administration.

The U.S. exit from UNESCO in 2017 cited an alleged anti-Israel bias within the organization. The decision followed a 2011 move by UNESCO to include Palestine as a member state, which led the U.S. and Israel to cease financing the agency. The U.S. withdrawal became official a year later in 2018.

In preparation for its return, the Biden administration requested $150 million for the 2024 budget to go toward UNESCO dues and arrears, with plans for similar requests in the ensuing years until the full debt of $619 million is paid off.

Before its departure, the U.S. was the single biggest funder of UNESCO, contributing 22% of the agency’s overall funding, a significant portion of UNESCO’s $534 million annual operating budget.

This is the second time the U.S. has returned to UNESCO after a period of withdrawal. The country previously left the organization in 1984 under the Reagan administration, citing mismanagement, corruption, and perceived advancement of Soviet interests. It rejoined in 2003 under George W. Bush’s presidency.

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