The U.S. has told the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that it is interested in re-joining the agency, nearly six years after withdrawing its membership.
A State Department spokesperson confirmed to Axios that the U.S. privately notified the UN agency of its interest in rejoining, saying that Richard Verma, the Deputy Secretary of State for management and resources, sent a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay last week proposing a plan for the U.S. to rejoin the agency.
A source told the media outlet that the proposed plan, which was negotiated between the State Department and UNESCO, detailed a timetable for paying the U.S. debt and being readmitted to the agency’s executive board.
Lawmakers approved a bill last year that allocated more than $500 million needed to pay the U.S. debt to UNESCO in an effort to allow its return as a full member, according to Axios.
Another source told Axios that Azoulay’ office informed ambassadors of all member states of a meeting set for Monday, where the director-general will brief members of the U.S. plans to return to the agency, also asking for their approval to hold a special general conference meeting next month to welcome the U.S. decision and approve their plans to rejoin the agency.
It’s been nearly six years since the then-Trump administration announced it would leave UNESCO due to what it called anti-Israel bias.
Last year, Israel, who also left the agency, informed the State Department that it wouldn’t be opposed to a U.S. return to the agency.
Rejoining the UN-based agency is a top foreign policy goal of the Biden administration, in part to counter the growing influence of the Chinese government in UNESCO, Axios reported.
The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment and more information.
Source: The Hill