US First Lady Jill Biden to Celebrate US Rejoining UNESCO in Paris
Highlighting the Importance of US Leadership and National Security
First lady Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Paris next week to celebrate the US rejoining UNESCO, according to senior administration officials. This visit aims to highlight the national security imperative of American involvement in such coalitions and emphasize the role of US leadership in the world.
President Joe Biden has chosen the first lady as a top surrogate to commemorate the occasion that reverses a Trump-era decision. The visit intends to reassure allies that “America’s back” and signal the White House’s reaffirmed commitment to the organization.
US Withdrawal from UNESCO and Its Repercussions
The US withdrew from UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – during the Trump administration. The decision was prompted by the State Department’s citation of anti-Israel bias and mounting membership dues owed to the international body. UNESCO promotes cooperation in education, science, culture, communication, and also designates “world heritage” sites.
Then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, now a GOP presidential candidate, described the organization’s “extreme politicization” as a chronic embarrassment.
Dr. Jill Biden’s Role in Rejoining UNESCO
Dr. Biden, as per a senior administration official, will attend and deliver remarks at a UNESCO flag raising ceremony on Tuesday. She will also greet UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.
The decision to rejoin the organization is seen as a milestone that signifies the return of US leadership in a vital international space, according to a second senior Biden administration official.
The Importance of US Engagement in International Organizations
The second senior official emphasizes that when the US does not participate in these organizations, other countries step in to fill the void. In an era of increasing geopolitical competition, competitors are actively working at the UN to shape the global agenda. By being present in the room, the US can push back against unfavorable developments.
The absence of the US from UNESCO since the 2017 withdrawal has been harming US interests. The organization has made much-needed reforms during this period, states the official.
US Priorities upon Rejoining UNESCO
Having the US at the UNESCO table will provide the administration with influence on international standards and shared global understanding. Among the new top US priorities for the organization are investments in Holocaust education, preservation of cultural heritage in Ukraine, journalist safety, STEM education focused on women and girls in Africa, and artificial intelligence.
US Commitment to International Leadership
The third official reiterates the Biden administration’s commitment to playing a leadership role in multilateral venues where US interests, security, and prosperity can be protected and promoted. The official believes that engagement with UNESCO is a valuable investment.
Dr. Jill Biden’s Itinerary
The first lady will depart from Washington for Paris on Sunday evening and arrive on Monday morning. She will meet with Mrs. Brigitte Macron, spouse of French President Emmanuel Macron, on Monday. During her trip, Dr. Biden will also visit Mont Saint Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and pay tribute to fallen World War II US service members at the Brittany American Cemetery in Normandy.