Five years after Trump withdrew the US from UNESCO, the Biden administration recently announced plans to rejoin the organization.
In a briefing in March, Under Secretary of State for Management John Bass stated that returning to the organization would “help us address a key opportunity cost that our absence is creating in our global competition with China.”
This move is the latest step in President Joe Biden’s strategy to reengage with international organizations that Trump left when he was in office.
A running list of these global organizations can be found below.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
On June 8, the State Department sent a letter to UNESCO asking for readmission. In the letter, Deputy Secretary of State for Management Richard Verma suggested a “plan for the U.S. to rejoin the organization.”
The department added that official readmission would “require concurrence by UNESCO’s current membership.” In the coming days, the proposal from the United States is expected to be shared by UNESCO leadership.
Additionally, the United States of America agreed last year to contribute financially to the organization.
Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO, stated, “This is a strong act of confidence in UNESCO and multilateralism.”
Under Trump, the State Department announced at the end of 2017 that it would end its relationship with UNESCO the following year because, among other things, the Trump administration was concerned about anti-Israel bias.
At the time, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, criticized the organization for deviating from its mission and asserted that UNESCO’s “extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment.”
In addition, Israel withdrew, and both withdrawals were made from the organization official in January 2018.
Before Trump’s departure, there was tension between the United States and UNESCO. According to The Associated Press, “ideological issues during the Cold War and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” was a significant source of contention between the two over the past few decades.
In 1983, former President Ronald Reagan also withdrew the nation from the organization, a vacant position until 2002, when former President George W. Bush returned.
On his first day in the Oval Office, Biden signed some executive orders, one of which required the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement, an international agreement designed to combat global warming.
A month later, in February 2021, the nation officially joined the deal. At the time, Biden called climate change a “global, existential crisis” and stated that the United States could “no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change.”
According to The New York Times, the agreement’s “galvanizing idea” is that “global solidarity and collective action” are the means of preventing the “ravages of climate change,” which include higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and more severe storms. Since 2016, 195 nations, including the United States, have signed the agreement.
Trump began withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement in 2017, but the move would not be made public until November 4, 2020, resulting in 107 days of American isolation.
He believed American workers and businesses would be subjected to unfair environmental regulations due to the “draconian” agreement.
World Health Organization (WHO)
Biden also signed letters reversing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) shortly after his inauguration.
He named Dr. Anthony Fauci to represent the United States on the WHO executive committee. Fauci announced that the nation would participate in an international effort to evenly distribute coronavirus vaccines and provide the organization with more funding.
Trump stopped donating to the World Health Organization in April 2020, claiming that the organization was “mismanaging and covering up” the Covid-19 pandemic on China’s behalf and that the United States had a “duty to insist on full accountability.”
He announced that the United States would no longer be a member of the organization, which is the United Nations’ public health arm.
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
A month after announcing that the US would rejoin WHO and the Paris Agreement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States also intended to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council.
Blinken stated in February 2021 that the president instructed the State Department to “reengage immediately and robustly with the UN Human Rights Council.” With 168 votes in October, the United States was officially reelected as a member.
After Trump repeatedly threatened to leave the 47-member council, the United States withdrew from the controversial international organization in 2018.
Nikki Haley, his UN ambassador, called the global human rights organization “hypocritical and self-serving” for having “chronic bias against Israel.”