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IWP holds event on “UNESCO 3.0” hosted by Amb. Louise Oliver

An event titled “UNESCO 3.0” was held at The Institute of World Politics, on March 26, 2024, and featured a debate moderated by Ambassador Louise Oliver. The key speakers, Gerald C. Anderson and Stephen Engelken, discussed the U.S.’s intermittent relationship with UNESCO.

IWP’s Dr. John Lenczowski provided the panel with an eloquent introduction, noting the staggering combined number of diplomatic successes between all the panelists.

The panelists, through their rich experience, shed light on the complexities of the U.S.-UNESCO relationship. Gerald C. Anderson’s perspective, backed by years of diplomatic expertise, brought out the strategic dimensions of the U.S.’s intermittent participation in UNESCO. Stephen Engelken complemented the discussion by presenting the challenges and opportunities posed by these decisions.

The emphasis on historical events, like the U.S. withdrawing under Reagan due to UNESCO’s perceived anti-Western bias and rejoining under Bush as a gesture of renewed commitment to international cooperation, was particularly compelling. The conversation around the latest rejoining under President Biden highlighted current geopolitical dynamics, especially concerning the rise of Chinese influence and the U.S.’s strategy to counterbalance it through international forums like UNESCO.

One of the debate’s core elements was evaluating the pros and cons of U.S. membership in UNESCO. On one hand, UNESCO’s role in promoting education, science, culture, and communication internationally offers a platform for the U.S. to exert soft power and uphold its values. On the other hand, the historical contention, budgetary commitments, and political disagreements within UNESCO pose significant challenges.

This talk touched upon how UNESCO’s membership aligns with U.S. foreign policy objectives and the ways in which it could be leveraged to foster global collaboration and understanding.

The discussion was enriched by questions from the audience, which ranged from the impact of UNESCO initiatives on global education and culture to the practical implications of U.S. financial contributions to the organization.