- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

PARIS Seventeen years ago, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz wrote a polite resignation letter to the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.
"The purpose of this letter is to notify you that the United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization effective December 31, 1984," Mr. Shultz wrote to UNESCO's then-director general, Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow.
Now, almost two decades later, UNESCO has slashed its staff, overhauled its management, and shed its image of nurturing corruption, nepotism and an anti-Western bias. But the newest argument for wooing Washington back, advocates say, lies on the desolate battlefields of Afghanistan. U.N. proposals to bring peace to the country also include new schools and a tolerance-oriented curriculum to feed it.
"During his presidential election campaign, Mr. George Bush kept saying the number one task for a president is education. UNESCO's foremost mandate is education," said UNESCO's director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, in a recent interview. "We have to reconstruct the education system in Afghanistan, and UNESCO is prepared to play a major role."
Today, Mr. Shultz supports re-entry. So does former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. And the House of Representatives voted in May to rejoin UNESCO.
The Bush administration is reviewing the merits of returning to the U.N. body. A decision is expected in the coming months.
"Ultimately, the hard question will be why not go back into UNESCO?" one U.S. official said. "If the U.S. is committed to the U.N. system, UNESCO is an integral part of that system. UNESCO is not out on the fringes."
One of UNESCO's mandates an abstract notion of promoting understanding among countries and cultures has earned new esteem since the September 11 strikes.


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