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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 12, 2002

Fact Sheet: United States Rejoins Unesco

"As a Symbol of Our Commitment to Human Dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance, and learning."

--President George W. Bush
September 12, 2002

  • Today, President Bush announced in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly that the United States will return to UNESCO.

  • The United States withdrew from UNESCO in 1984, citing poor management and values opposed to our own. For example, the Director-General of UNESCO at the time advocated for limitations on a free press.

  • Since reforms began under new leadership in 1999, UNESCO has made significant progress. UNESCO's management structure has been dramatically reformed; senior positions have been slashed by about 50 percent; and capable managers have been brought in to administer key functions including personnel selection and auditing. And it is now dedicated to promoting values such as press freedom and education for all.

  • In 2001, the House voted to authorize the $60 million dues payment required for the United States to rejoin UNESCO. Several key Senators, including Senators Biden and Helms, have supported rejoining, as do some of the original advocates for the United States's departure from UNESCO -- notably former Secretary of State George Shultz. The United Kingdom, which left UNESCO along with the United States in 1984, rejoined in 1997.

    What is UNESCO?

  • UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Its headquarters are in Paris and its work is done through 73 field offices.

  • UNESCO was created in 1946 and currently has 188 member states. UNESCO promotes collaboration among nations in education, science, culture, and communications. Among its key work areas are expanding educational opportunities, protecting world heritage sites, developing reliable world scientific standards and statistics, and promoting freedom of expression and human rights.

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