U.S. announces plan to rejoin UNESCO

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization welcomes the announcement that the United States plans to rejoin UNESCO. Executive Director John Kenyon said the move will strengthen both UNESCO and the United States.

“So much of the value of UNESCO is in the way it fosters collaboration and connection, whether that is in the form of the Creative Cities Network, where Iowa City is a member as a City of Literature, or in broader efforts to harness science, education, and culture to improve our world,” he said. “It is vital for a country with the talent and resources of the United States to be a part of that work to meet new and existing challenges across the globe.”

The U.S. has not been a member of UNESCO since December 2017, when the then-current administration opted to withdraw. The U.S. had previously suspended dues payments in 2011 due to legislation related to Palestine’s membership in UNESCO. The proposed re-entry plan involves payment of those outstanding dues. It must be submitted to the General Conference of UNESCO member states for approval. A vote is expected to take place in July.

Iowa City has been a member of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network since 2008. It was designated as the third City of Literature in the world at that time, and is now one of 42 Cities of Literature and part of the 295-member Creative Cities Network. It is one of nine designated Creative Cities in the U.S., a list that also includes Santa Fe, New Mexico (Craft and Folk Art, 2005) Paducah, Kentucky (Craft and Folk Art), Austin, Texas (Media Art); Detroit, Michigan (Design); Tucson, Arizona (Gastronomy); Kansas City, Missouri (Music); San Antonio, Texas (Gastronomy); Seattle, Washington (Literature).

Kenyon, who currently serves as the coordinator for the Cities of Literature subnetwork, said the decision to withdraw from UNESCO did not affect Iowa City’s status as a City of Literature, but it did prohibit U.S. cities from applying for designation. The move to rejoin will remove this barrier, meaning other U.S. cities could apply as soon as 2025, during the next open application period.