One notable UNESCO program achievement, in 2008, was the designation of Iowa City, Iowa as a UNESCO City of Literature. It was just the third city in the world to be accorded such recognition, and to date is the only such city in the United States. Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon, in an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, observed that he was personally very disappointed by the withdrawal, and noted that "This decision has not made things better for UNESCO." He also remarked that "UNESCO's ability to better the world was compromised" when the United States ceased paying membership contributions in 2011 under the Obama administration.
A press statement by the U.S. Department of State earlier today indicates that UNESCO was informed, despite the withdrawal, of the United States' ongoing:
. . . desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.Meanwhile, the Iowa City Book Festival continues this week with its full slate of activities, including events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the International Writing Program. Festival highlights for today also include the bestowal of the Paul Engle Prize to this year's recipient, Alexander Chee.
It is worth recalling that the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO begins with the assertion "that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." And today that must include the minds of everyone.