First lady Jill Biden ushered the U.S. back into UNESCO, the cultural wing of the U.N., on Tuesday with a speech in France that hailed President Biden’s global partnerships and offered a thinly veiled rebuke of the former administration’s isolationism.
Mrs. Biden, speaking in Paris, said it is important for nations to take care of their own citizens, “but we’re also a part of a global community.”
“When my husband, President Biden, took office two and a half years ago, he made a promise to the American people: That he would rebuild the systems that were broken and fortify our institutions, that he would work to bring divided communities back together, that he would put us on a path to a better, brighter future while restoring our leadership on the world stage,” Mrs. Biden said at a UNESCO flag-raising ceremony with Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“President Biden understands that if we hope to create a better world, the United States can’t go it alone — but we must help lead the way,” she said. “That’s why we’re so proud to rejoin UNESCO.”
UNESCO is a cultural wing of the U.N. that facilitates international exchange through education, arts, sciences and culture, though it has been a point of contention over the past decade.
The U.S. and Israel stopped supplying money for the body after UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member in 2011, and the Trump administration withdrew altogether.
Biden officials determined that not having a seat at the table was risky. They cited the influence of China over the body as it debated emerging technologies and other matters.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, saw many international coalitions as faulty because the U.S. offered outsized support and financial backing, only to see its influence take a backseat to countries like China. He frequently cited the World Health Organization’s approach to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as a prime example.
Mr. Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accords and has pushed for a settlement in the Russia-Ukraine war, breaking with Biden officials and Western allies who say it is up to Ukraine to decide how or when peace talks should unfold.
Mrs. Biden did not mention the former president by name, though highlighted contrasts between the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination and her husband.
“President Biden understands that sickness can travel across oceans. That a war in Europe can empty grocery shelves across the world. That the smoke from wildfires can cloud a whole continent,” Mrs. Biden said. “He ensured that we became partners in global vaccine initiatives. He built a coalition of more than 140 countries to stand against Putin’s unjust war. He rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office and continues to bring nations together to address the climate crisis.”
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