WASHINGTON (AP) — The United Nations scientific, educational and cultural organization has agreed to readmit the United States as a member.
UNESCO’s board voted 132 to 10 on Friday to accept the US proposal to join the Paris-based agency. America’s membership will become official once Secretary of State Antony Blinken or a designate formally accepts the invitation, according to Biden administration officials.
Blinken said the vote would “restore American leadership on a host of issues important and valuable to the American people.”
“I am encouraged and grateful that today members accepted our proposal, which will allow the United States to take the next formal steps toward full reintegration into the organization,” he said in a statement. .
Russian, Palestinian and North Korean officials delayed consideration of the US proposal on Thursday with hours of procedural delays. This session was adjourned due to the fatigue of the UNESCO interpreters.
Besides Russia, North Korea and the Palestinians, those who voted against US readmission were Belarus, China, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Nicaragua and Syria.
The Biden administration announced in early June that it would apply to join the organization primarily because it feared China would fill a void left by the absence of the United States from the body. UNESCO, which has 193 members, plays a major role in setting international standards for the teaching of artificial intelligence and technology around the world.
The Trump administration in 2017 announced that the United States would withdraw from UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias. This decision which took effect a year later.
The United States and Israel stopped funding UNESCO after voting to include Palestine as a member state in 2011.
The Biden administration has requested $150 million for the 2024 budget to cover UNESCO dues and arrears. The plan calls for similar demands for years to come until the total debt of $619 million is paid off.
This represents a large portion of UNESCO’s $534 million annual operating budget. Before leaving, the United States contributed 22% of the agency’s overall funding.
Israel has long accused the United Nations of anti-Israel bias. In 2012, despite Israel’s objections, the State of Palestine was recognized as a non-member observer state by the General Assembly. The Palestinians claim the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – for an independent state. Israel says Palestinian efforts to gain recognition at the UN are aimed at circumventing a negotiated settlement and pressuring Israel to make concessions.
The United States previously withdrew from UNESCO under the Reagan administration in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt, and used to advance Soviet interests. He joined in 2003 during the presidency of former President George W. Bush.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.