UNESCO headquarters in Paris
UNESCO headquarters in ParisiStock

The United States on Tuesday formally rejoined the UN’s scientific, educational and cultural organization (UNESCO) after a five-year absence, The Associated Press reports.

In late June, UNESCO’s governing board voted 132-10 to accept the US proposal to rejoin the Paris-based agency. The vote come weeks after the US notified UNESCO that it has decided to rejoin the agency, after the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing US membership.

On Monday, the US delivered a document certifying it would accept the invitation. On Tuesday, UNESCO’s Director General Audrey Azoulay said it was official. A welcome ceremony with a flag-raising and VIP guests is expected in late July.

“This is excellent news for UNESCO. The momentum we have regained in recent years will now continue to grow. Our initiatives will be stronger throughout the world,” Azoulay said, as quoted by AP.

“Our organization is once again moving towards universality,” she added, calling the return of the United States “excellent news for multilateralism as a whole. If we want to meet the challenges of our century, there can only be a collective response.”

The Trump administration withdrew from UNESCO in 2017, citing its anti-Israel bias. Israel withdrew from UNESCO in 2019.

The US and Israel stopped financing UNESCO after it voted to include “Palestine” as a member state in 2011.

The Biden administration has requested $150 million for the 2024 budget to go toward UNESCO dues and arrears. The plan foresees similar requests for the ensuing years until the full debt of $619 million is paid off.

In late 2021 it was reported that the Biden administration is pressuring Israel to renew its membership in UNESCO. Last year, it was that Israel has withdrawn its opposition to a US return to UNESCO.

Two months later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israel has no objections to a US return to the UN cultural agency.

Israel has had a contentious relationship with UNESCO, which has approved several anti-Israel resolutions in recent years.

In 2018, the UN agency approved a resolution declaring that the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are "an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian territory."

Previous resolutions referred to the Jewish state as "the occupying power" in Jerusalem. Another declared the Old City of Hebron as a “Palestinian World Heritage site”.

In 2016, UNESCO passed resolutions declaring that Israel has no rights to Jerusalem, and describing the Temple Mount and Old City of Jerusalem as Muslim holy sites.