United States to Rejoin UNESCO, Ending Four-Year Absence

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has announced that the United States will rejoin the agency in July, four years after leaving due to allegations of bias against Israel. The move to rejoin will require a vote by member states, but it is expected to pass easily. UNESCO plays a crucial role in promoting educational, scientific, and cultural causes worldwide, and it also designates World Heritage Sites of significant global importance.

The US decision to withdraw from UNESCO in 2017 came after Palestine became a member of the agency, prompting the US to stop funding UNESCO, which amounted to millions of dollars. Then-President Barack Obama halted the funding due to Palestine’s status as a non-sovereign state, not recognized by the United Nations. While Palestine was included as a non-member observer state in 2012, granting them participation in General Assembly proceedings, they lacked voting rights. Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, supported the US decision, citing concerns about the “politicization of UNESCO” caused by Palestine’s membership.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a contentious issue within UNESCO. The Palestinians claim territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war for their own independent state, while Israel believes that UN recognition is an attempt to pressure them into concessions. This disagreement has led to tensions and a pushback against UNESCO’s alleged anti-Israel bias, including criticism of its stance on East Jerusalem’s occupation and the declaration of ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. US laws prohibit funding to any UN agency that recognizes Palestinian demands for their own state, but an agreement was reached in 2022 to resume funding for UNESCO.

The US withdrawal from UNESCO in 2017 had significant consequences. It created a funding shortfall of up to $600 million, as the US was one of the agency’s major contributors. Israel also reduced its funding before eventually exiting the agency. The absence of US funding and involvement had implications for UNESCO’s operations and initiatives. However, the US has now decided to rejoin UNESCO for various reasons, including concerns over China’s growing influence in global education and technology standards.

This is not the first time the United States has withdrawn from UNESCO. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency in 1984, the US exited the organization, citing concerns about mismanagement, fraud, and perceived Soviet influence. After a nineteen-year absence, the US returned to UNESCO in 2003 under the leadership of George Bush, expressing commitment to the organization’s mission of promoting human rights, learning, and tolerance, and emphasizing the importance of upholding human dignity.

In conclusion, the United States’ decision to rejoin UNESCO after a four-year absence marks a significant development. It signifies a shift in the country’s stance and renewed commitment to global cooperation in promoting education, science, and culture. The move to rejoin the agency is expected to pass easily through a member state vote and paves the way for the US to contribute to UNESCO’s important work in designating World Heritage Sites and advancing educational and cultural causes worldwide.

United States to Rejoin UNESCO – FAQs

Q1: What is the significance of the US rejoining UNESCO?

Ans: The US’s decision to rejoin UNESCO shows a renewed commitment to international collaboration in the advancement of science, culture, and education. It enables the US to support UNESCO’s initiatives, such as the designation of World Heritage Sites and the promotion of global educational and cultural causes.

Q2: Has the United States withdrawn from UNESCO before?

Ans: Yes, in 1984, under Ronald Reagan’s administration, the US left UNESCO over worries about poor management, fraud, and alleged Soviet influence. 2003 saw the US rejoin the group, this time under George Bush’s direction.

Q3: What were the concerns raised about UNESCO’s alleged bias against Israel?

Ans: Regarding the occupation of East Jerusalem and the designation of historic Jewish monuments as Palestinian historical sites, there have been accusations of anti-Israel bias inside UNESCO. The ambassador of Israel to UNESCO opposed what he viewed as the politicisation of the organisation and backed the US decision to leave.


  • Pritipalit

    Priti Palit, an accomplished edtech writer, boasts a wealth of experience in preparing candidates for multiple government exams. With a passion for education and a keen eye for detail, she has contributed significantly to the field of online learning. Priti's expertise and dedication continue to empower aspiring individuals in their pursuit of success in government examinations.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top