Blinken seeks US funds for UNESCO to counter China

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on March 22 on Congress to agree to $150 million to rejoin the U.N. culture agency UNESCO, saying the U.S. absence was letting China write rules on artificial intelligence.

Congress, then fully controlled by Blinken's Democratic Party, in December paved the way for the United States to restore funding to the Paris-based agency that was suspended in 2011 over its inclusion of a Palestinian state.

President Joe Biden in his new budget has proposed $150 million in funding as part of a return to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"I very much believe we should be back in UNESCO, again, not as a gift to UNESCO, but because things that are happening at UNESCO actually matter," Blinken told a Senate committee as he presented the budget.

"They are working on rules, norms and standards for artificial intelligence. We want to be there," he said.

"China right now is the single largest contributor to UNESCO. That carries a lot of weight. We're not even at the table."

The United States paid about 22 percent or $80 million of UNESCO's budget until 2011 when its admission of a Palestinian state triggered an end to the contributions under U.S. law.

Then president Donald Trump went further in 2019 by withdrawing the United States from UNESCO alongside Israel, accusing the body of bias against the Jewish state.

As part of the giant omnibus spending bill approved at the end of 2022, Congress gave the president the power to waive the previous law and fund UNESCO if he determines that the move would counter Chinese influence.

The United States has described China as the biggest global adversary to the United States including through its rapid progress...

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