U.S. first lady Jill Biden attended a flag-raising ceremony at UNESCO in Paris on Tuesday, marking Washington’s official reentry into the U.N. agency after a controversial five-year hiatus.
The Stars and Stripes was hoisted up outside UNESCO’s headquarters with the Eiffel Tower on the skyline to rousing applause and a rendition of the national anthem. Before the flag-raising, Biden made remarks about the importance of American leadership in preserving cultural heritage and empowering education and science across the globe.
“I was honored to join you today as we raise the flag of the Unites States, the symbol of our commitment to global collaboration and peace,” Biden said. She said that this move was an example of President Joe Biden’s pledge about “restoring our leadership on the world stage.”
“We are so proud to rejoin UNESCO,” she proclaimed, acknowledging that “as a teacher I’m a little biased.”
The United States had announced its intention to rejoin UNESCO in June, and the organization’s 193 member states earlier this month voted to approve the U.S. reentry. Tuesday’s ceremony, which also featured a speech by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, formally signified the U.S. becoming the 194th member — and flag proprietor — at the agency.
“We are putting the Star Spangled banner back where it belongs,” Azoulay said.
“In the time of divisions, rifts and and existential threats, we reaffirm our union here today,” Azoulay also said, referring to current global political instabilities. “Together we will be stronger.”
“The return of the United States has a meaning that is bigger than UNESCO,” she added.
Azoulay emphasized the significance of the move for multilateralism and “universality” as a whole — in a speech that name checked the war in Ukraine. She said the momentum of UNESCO will grow with the reintegration of the U.S., thereby strengthening the organization’s initiatives throughout the world.
The U.N. agency’s special envoy Forest Whitaker, the American actor, also gave a speech praising the spirit of peace through education that “could not have been possible without UNESCO.”
The U.S. decision to return to Paris-based UNESCO was based mainly on concerns that China has filled a leadership gap since Washington withdrew during the Trump administration. This development underscores the broader geopolitical dynamics at play, particularly the growing influence of China in international institutions. (France24)