Upon the withdrawal of the US from UNESCO in 1984, John (Jack) Fobes, Deputy Director General (DDG) of UNESCO from 1971 to 1977, founded Americans for the Universality of UNESCO (AUU), a non-profit organization. Jack was appalled by the US withdrawal from UNESCO. Through the AUU, he was devoted to promoting the US return to UNESCO and to maintaining US non-governmental relationships with UNESCO. Those of us who had the pleasure of working with him enthusiastically supported his initiatives. However, the US did not return to UNESCO until September 2002.

During the intervening years, AUU provided comprehensive reports on UNESCO General Conferences and Executive Boards, excellently prepared by Richard Nobbe. These reports kept Americans apprised of developments in UNESCO. In addition, AUU issued regular newsletters to its members and others throughout the US. Occasional meetings were held enabling AUU members to discuss developments in UNESCO and strategies for achieving a return of the US to UNESCO. During 1998-2000, Ray Wanner (then in the Department of State) and Emily Vargas-Baron (then in USAID), with the assistance of Stanley Ikenberry of the American Council on Education and several university presidents, made many efforts to encourage President Clinton to announce a return to UNESCO. However, President Clinton feared that an announcement toward the end of his Presidency might lead the incoming administration to overturn his decision. Therefore, before leaving office he wrote a letter to President Bush encouraging him to make this decision. In 2002, President Bush announced our return to UNESCO. There were various reasons for this decision but clearly it was largely the result of a steadfast commitment on the part of Jack Fobes and members of AUU. Jack passed away in 2005, and fortunately he lived to see the US return to UNESCO.

Upon the return of the US to UNESCO, members of AUU decided to shorten the name of our organization to Americans for UNESCO (AU). Since then AU’s accomplishments have included the following activities, among others:

  • Meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee have been held.
  • Gatherings of Board members and others have been convened to receive visiting UNESCO officials.
  • Advisory services (pro bono) have been provided in the fields of UNESCO’s competence to the Department of State/International Organizations, US National Commission for UNESCO, and the US Permanent Mission to UNESCO.
  • The Board collaborates closely with the UN Foundation to promote the resumption of US financial support for UNESCO and collaborates with Foundation leaders on other matters of mutual concern.
  • Several Board members developed a highly successful graduate level course on UNESCO at George Washington University. Now, Board member Dr. Laura Engle of the Graduate School of Education expertly teaches this course, with the collaboration of several Board members. It has become a sustainable part of University’s course offerings. Many are interested in expanding this effort to other US universities, and possibly worldwide.
  • AU has promoted the development of the UNESCO Club called the “Center for Peace” at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and some consideration has been given to promoting the expansion of UNESCO Clubs in the US.
  • Former Board President Richard Arndt edited a newsletter entitled, Prospects and Retrospects.
  • Two useful documents entitled, UNESCO for Beginners and Selected Achievements: UNESCO 1946-2006 were prepared by AU members, printed and disseminated widely.
  • Ray Wanner’s insightful review of US involvement in UNESCO, from its founding forward, was distributed widely.
  • The Board promoted the development and maintenance of direct interactions between US citizens and UNESCO staff members (and thwarted efforts to prohibit such relationships).
  • Board members have nurtured many linkages among US academic, cultural and scientific groups with UNESCO programs and personnel.
  • The Board has begun to explore the possibility of establishing a UNESCO Chair at George Washington University.
  • Bound copies all AUU newsletters, editorials, and reports on General Conference and Executive Board meetings were placed in the library of the Department of State.

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