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United States to Rejoin UNESCO


UN cultural and scientific agency UNESCO announced that the United States plans to rejoin — and pay more than $600 million in back dues.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why did the US Decide to Rejoin UNESCO?
  2. Background on US Departure from UNESCO
  3. About UNESCO

Why did the US Decide to Rejoin UNESCO?

  • The decision to rejoin UNESCO was driven by concerns over China’s increasing influence in the organization’s policymaking, particularly regarding standards for artificial intelligence and technology education globally.

Background on US Departure from UNESCO:

  • Previous Withdrawal: In 1984, during the Cold War era, the United States had previously withdrawn from UNESCO.
  • Funding Halt: The US and Israel stopped funding UNESCO in 2011 after it admitted Palestine as a member state.
  • Complete Withdrawal: In 2017, the Trump administration decided to withdraw from UNESCO altogether, effective the following year.
Reasons for US Departure:
  • Anti-Israel Bias: One of the main reasons for the US withdrawal was the perceived anti-Israel bias within UNESCO, particularly its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognition of Palestine as a member state.
  • Financial Concerns: The United States had been a significant contributor to UNESCO’s budget, and concerns about fiscal management and accountability influenced the decision to withdraw.
  • Reassessing Engagement: The withdrawal also reflected a broader scepticism towards multilateral institutions and a desire to reevaluate and prioritize US engagement and funding in international organizations.


  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to promoting international cooperation in Education, the Sciences, and Culture.
  • It is a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • UNESCO is headquartered in Paris and operates through numerous field offices worldwide.
  • With 193 Members and 11 Associate Members, it is governed by the General Conference and the Executive Board.
  • Notably, three UNESCO member states (Cook Islands, Niue, and Palestine) are not members of the United Nations, and three UN member states (Israel, Liechtenstein, United States) are not UNESCO members.
Objectives of UNESCO:
  • Promoting quality education and lifelong learning for all.
  • Harnessing scientific knowledge and policies for sustainable development.
  • Addressing social and ethical challenges arising from global issues.
  • Fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue, and a culture of peace.
  • Building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication technologies. • UNESCO places a special focus on “Africa” and “Gender Equality” as global priority areas.
History of UNESCO’s Establishment:
  • During World War II, the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education proposed the creation of an educational and cultural organization.
  • In November 1945, the United Nations Conference for the establishment of UNESCO was held in London, and on November 16, 1945, UNESCO was founded.
  • The first session of the General Conference took place in Paris from November to December 1946.
Key reports published by UNESCO
  • Global Education Monitoring Report
  • The United Nations World Water Development Report
  • World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development
  • Global Ocean Science Report

Source: Indian Express

December 2023