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Biden will nominate a top aide from Harris and Emhoff to represent the US at UNESCO

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top aide to both Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Second Mr. Doug Emhoff, is President Joe Biden’s choice to represent the United States at the United Nations’ global education agency, science and culture.

The US recently rejoined the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after a five-year hiatus initiated by Biden’s immediate predecessor in the White House, Donald Trump.

The Democratic president’s choice to become the U.S. permanent representative to Paris-based UNESCO, with the rank of ambassador, is Courtney O’Donnell, said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity on Monday to to discuss the nomination for a formal announcement.

O’Donnell currently wears two hats: She is a senior adviser to Harris and acting chief of staff to Emhoff, lending her expertise to a range of national and global issues, including gender equality and countering prejudice against Jews, a top issue for Emhoff , who is Jewish.

O’Donnell also served as communications director for Jill Biden when she was second lady during Joe Biden’s vice presidency when Barack Obama was president. O’Donnell helped Jill Biden raise awareness and support for US military families and promote community colleges.

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She has extensive experience in developing global partnerships, public affairs and strategic communications, and has held senior positions in two presidential administrations, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, national political campaigns and the private sector, according to her official biography.

O’Donnell most recently oversaw global partnerships at Airbnb.

Former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said O’Donnell is trusted by colleagues around the world.

“This is a fantastic choice and she will do a fantastic job at UNESCO,” he said in a statement.

Cathy Russell worked with O’Donnell in the second lady’s office and said she is adept at developing global partnerships, building social impact campaigns and providing strategic advice on a range of issues.

“Anyone who knows Courtney knows she is committed to the value of global engagement and strengthening American leadership around the world,” said Russell.

The Senate will vote on whether to confirm O’Donnell’s nomination.

The first lady attended a ceremony at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in late July where the American flag was raised to mark Washington’s official return to the UN agency after the absence at the initiative of Trump, a Republican. She spoke of the importance of American leadership in preserving cultural heritage and strengthening education and science around the world.

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The United States announced its intention to rejoin UNESCO in June, and the organization’s 193 member states voted in July to approve the US’s re-entry. The ceremony formally marked the US becoming the 194th member – and flag owner – of the agency.

The US decision to return was based primarily on concerns that China has filled a leadership gap since Washington withdrew, underscoring the broader geopolitical dynamics at play, particularly China’s growing influence in international institutions.

The US departure from UNESCO in 2017 reported a perceived anti-Israel bias within the organization. The decision followed a 2011 UNESCO initiative to include Palestine as a member state, which led to the US and Israel cutting off funding for the agency. The US withdrawal became official in 2018.

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