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The Antiquities Coalition Applauds US Decision to Rejoin UNESCO

July 27, 2023

Return to the UN Cultural Organization Will Provide a Global Platform for American Leadership

On July 25, First Lady Jill Biden oversaw the raising of the American flag at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), marking Washington’s return to the institution after a five-year absence. 

The Trump Administration had officially withdrawn from UNESCO in 2017, completing a process that started in 2011 when the Obama Administration froze all its financial contributions. By rejoining UNESCO, the United States will again have a seat at the table with the organization’s 193 other Member States, providing an important platform for American leadership at a critical time. UNESCO is the foremost global organization working to combat threats to our world heritage—and the sole agency with a mandate to do so within the UN framework—including the looting and trafficking of art and antiquities and cultural destruction in armed conflict like those now ranging in Ukraine, Sudan, and beyond. 

“As a founding member, the United States has previously been instrumental in working with UNESCO to fight the illicit trade in cultural property, mobilizing the international community to ratify international treaties, push for action at the UN Security Council, and respond on the ground in times of crisis,” said Deborah Lehr, Founder and Chairman of the Antiquities Organization. “As an organization that shares this mission, we commend the Administration for its return. Our revamped relationship with UNESCO will benefit not just our shared heritage, but our country, by again giving us a voice on the world stage.”

The Antiquities Coalition has long urged Washington to engage and participate fully in UNESCO. This week’s return fulfills a key recommendation of the nonprofit organization’s 2016 #CultureUnderThreatTask Force. Its report noted that American absence had reduced the “United States’ ability to drive policy and impact the broader agenda of UNESCO,” and with it the world. 

The Antiquities Coalition congratulates the Administration for reaching such an important foreign policy goal. It also encourages US policymakers to use this opportunity to continue strengthening our great tradition of leadership on cultural issues. As UNESCO continues to tackle contemporary challenges, the United States can play a key role in finding solutions.