Congress Takes Important Step Toward Keeping President’s Pledge to Rejoin UNESCO

House Also Supports Important UN Provisions on Peacekeeping, Budget

Washington, D.C.  Congress took an important step today toward keeping President Bush’s promise that the United States will rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (382-42), which authorizes the appropriation of $71 million for the U.S. to pay its dues to rejoin the organization.

Phyllis Cuttino, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign, applauded the House vote: “This is a first step in recognizing UNESCO’s crucial role in promoting American values such as education for all, press freedom, democracy and human rights. U.S. membership and leadership in UNESCO will reinforce and strengthen its work in these key areas,” she said.

Last year, President Bush pledged the U.S. would rejoin UNESCO. In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 12, 2002, the President said, “As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. The organization has been reformed, and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.”

UNESCO’s programs are currently supporting U.S. efforts to bring stability and democracy to volatile regions. For example, in Afghanistan, UNESCO played a key role in reopening schools and integrating girls into the classroom. In Iraq, it is working with the U.S. to protect and preserve that country’s cultural heritage.

With the passage of this bill, the House also approved two other important provisions related to the United Nations: it authorized lifting a cap on U.S. contributions to UN peacekeeping missions through 2007, preventing the accrual of new U.S. arrears to the UN; and it required the Administration to craft a plan for the U.S. to resynchronize its UN dues payments. The U.S. has paid its UN dues behind schedule for two decades, compromising the organization’s financial stability and its ability to meet increasing demands around the world.

“By approving these provisions, Congress is helping to assure a strong leadership role for the U.S. in the United Nations,” said Ms. Cuttino.