Biden Nominates Courtney O’Donnell for Prestigious UNESCO Representative Role


President Joe Biden has nominated a prominent member of his staff, Courtney O’Donnell, for the esteemed position of U.S. permanent representative to UNESCO, the United Nations agency dedicated to the promotion and protection of education, science, and culture worldwide.

This comes following the recent decision of the United States to rejoin the Paris-based UNESCO organization after a five-year-long break, initiated by President Biden’s immediate predecessor, Donald Trump.

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O’Donnell boasts an impressive career, currently serving as a top adviser in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office and as acting chief of staff for second gentleman Doug Emhoff. A champion for diverse causes such as gender equity and combating anti-Jewish prejudice – a cause deeply personal to Emhoff, a practitioner of Judaism – O’Donnell’s expansive portfolio also includes orchestrating communications for first lady Jill Biden during her tenure as the second lady.

Beyond her political career, she is lauded for her significant impact in the nonprofit sector, global affairs, and strategic communications, having held influential roles in national political campaigns, philanthropic organizations, and the private sector. Most recently, O’Donnell was credited with overseeing global partnerships at Airbnb.

Welcoming this nomination are her esteemed colleagues, former White House chief of staff Ron Klain and Cathy Russell, both of whom endorsed her commitment to international engagement and strengthening American leadership globally.

The Senate will have to approve O’Donnell’s nomination before it becomes official.

Earlier this year, the first lady ceremoniously marked the reentry of the U.S. into UNESCO in Paris. The United States became the 194th member of the global organization, an act that affirmed the nation’s commitment to cultural preservation, education, and scientific advancement worldwide.

The decision to rejoin UNESCO was attributed to growing concern over China’s rising influence in international institutes after the U.S. withdrew. The original exit in 2017 was triggered by an alleged anti-Israel bias within UNESCO. This followed the organization’s controversial recognition of Palestine as a member state in 2011, causing both the U.S. and Israel to cease funding the agency. The U.S. officially left the organization in 2018.