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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Biden administration must overlook federal law, and a history of scandal, if it aims to rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Epoch Times recently reported Biden officials have had their sights set on rejoining UNESCO. This comes after the United States renewed its memberships this year with the World Health Organization, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the U.N. Human Rights Council.
A return to the controversial, international forum would require defying federal laws that prohibit U.S. funding for groups that grant membership to the state of Palestine.
"It is long past time for Congress to recognize that the national interests of the United States are best served by participation in international organizations like UNESCO," said J. Brian Atwood, the Clinton-era administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Proponents of UNESCO, like Atwood, say the organization — whose mission it is to foster peace, security, human rights and sustainable development around the globe — has made great strides worthy of serious consideration.
Its director general since 2018, Audrey Azoulay, has allegedly made reforms that resulted in easing political tensions. Today, UNESCO serves as the main U.N. organization for promoting a free press, is a leading voice on the ethical use of artificial intelligence and has advanced girls' education in Afghanistan.
Azoulay was reelected to another term as director general Tuesday. In September, prior to her reelection, she traveled to the United States to lobby Jill Biden and senators, according to Reuters. The first lady, an English professor, has been involved in past UNESCO teaching programs.
But critics maintain there are serious concerns — such as China's growing influence in the organization. Since the United States left UNESCO, China has become the top contributor, and, according to Foreign Policy writer Kristen Cordell, has urged UNESCO to relocate its International Bureau of Education (IBE) from Geneva to Shanghai. This is substantial, considering IBE supports member nations in drafting curricula for "classrooms across the developing world."
The communist nation has also sought to "sign a cooperative agreement between UNESCO and its Belt and Road Initiative," according to Atwood. The Belt and Road Initiative is a colossal infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe and potentially expand China's political power and military might. Both moves are examples critics say point to China's initiatives to reshape UNESCO's agenda.
Kevin Moley, who served as U.S. ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva under former President George W. Bush, expressed concern over China's influence in UNESCO and its history of undermining American principles.
"In the Trump administration, it was 'Make America Great Again,'" Moley told The Epoch Times. "In the Biden administration, it's ... 'Humiliate America Again,'" Moley added.
The United States, as well as Israel, withdrew from UNESCO under President Trump, in 2018. Then-State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said the withdrawal "reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."
To renew its membership with UNESCO, complete with voting rights, the United States would have to pay more than $600 million in back dues, according to multiple reports. The United States stopped paying its share in 2011, when Palestine became a member.
The United States joined UNESCO following its inception immediately after World War II; it has had an on-again, off-again relationship with UNESCO ever since. UNESCO has said it would be "good news" if the United States and Israel would return. Congress will have the final say.