Tuesday, April 16, 2024
First lady to France for U.S. U.N. re-entry.

First lady to France for U.S. U.N. re-entry.

First lady Jill Biden’s Presence in France Marks U.S.’s Return to UNESCO

First lady Jill Biden is in France and is scheduled to deliver remarks Tuesday at a UNESCO ceremony marking the United State’s return to the global organization after over four years of absence.

The U.S.’s Previous Withdrawal from UNESCO

The U.S. formally withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Dec. 2018 over what the Trump administration saw as an anti-Israel bias and the need for “fundamental reform.” Previously, the U.S. halted funding for UNESCO when the organization voted to give Palestine membership in 2011.

Reasons for Rejoining UNESCO

But the absence from UNESCO was “harming our interests,” and the organization has made “much-needed reforms,” a senior administration official said in a call to reporters last week.

The U.S. announced its decision to rejoin the organization in June and was re-accepted shortly after.

Efforts to Rejoin Multilateral Organizations

The first lady will deliver remarks at a flag-raising ceremony on Tuesday marking the U.S.’s return. Her trip is the latest move in the Biden administration’s efforts to rejoin multilateral organizations that the former President Donald Trump exited.

Other Organizations the U.S. Has Rejoined

In 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the U.S. was rejoining the United Nations Human Rights Council, a move that became formalized at the start of a three-year term beginning in Jan. 2022.

Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement addressing climate change, which the Trump administration announced its intention to withdraw in 2017. The U.S. formally exited the pact just one day after the 2020 election.

U.S. Leadership on the International Stage

Senior administration officials framed the first lady’s trip as a milestone in restoring U.S. leadership on the international stage.

“We also recognize that when we don’t show up in these organizations, other countries will fill the void,” a senior administration official said.

“If we aren’t in the room, we can’t push back,” the official added. “And if we don’t show up, we can’t fight for the American people and defend our allies abroad from unfair attacks.”

Other Activities during the Trip

During the trip, she will also visit Mont-Saint-Michel — a UNESCO world heritage site — as well as the Brittany American cemetery in Normandy to honor American servicemembers who died during WWII. She will also meet with France’s first lady Brigitte Macron on Tuesday.

U.S. Priorities in UNESCO

A senior administration official listed U.S. priorities in UNESCO, including investments in Holocaust education, the preservation of cultural heritage in Ukraine, journalists’ safety and STEM education for women and girls in Africa.

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