U.S. to pay $619M to return to UNESCO after majority of nations approve proposal

July 1 (UPI) — The United States will pay $619 million in accrued dues to return to the United Nations’ arts and culture organization UNESCO after the administration of former President Donald Trump pulled away in 2019.

The U.S. State Department under the administration of President Joe Biden sent a letter to Audrey Azoulay — the director-general of the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization — last month announcing the nation’s intent to rejoin the international cultural agency.

UNESCO met Thursday to examine the United States’ proposal and hold a vote with 132 votes in favor or readmitting the U.S. and 10 votes against, the agency said in a news release.

The nations that voted against readmitting the United States included Palestine, according to The Art Newspaper. The path that led the United States and its ally Israel to withdraw from UNESCO began in 2011 when Palestine was admitted into the organization.

At the time, former President Barack Obama withdrew funding from the agency which was followed by Trump leaving it altogether.

Other nations that voted against readmitting the United States included Russia and its allies Belarus, Iran and Nicaragua. China and North Korea also voted against readmitting the United States.

Azoulay has led mediations to ease political tensions on topics such as the Middle East and has “reformed” the organization to make it more efficient, UNESCO said in its statement.

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

“It’s a great day for UNESCO and for multilateralism. Building upon the momentum achieved in recent years, our Organization is once again moving towards universalism with this return of the United States.”

Apart from paying its back dues, the United States has also agreed to fund 22% of UNESCO’s budget and contribute to programs that increase access to education in Africa among others.

“I am encouraged and grateful that UNESCO members have accepted the U.S. proposal,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, adding that the vote “will allow us to continue steps toward rejoining the organization.”


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