20 December 201717:52

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a General Meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, Moscow, December 20, 2017

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Сolleagues, friends,

I am pleased to welcome you to this General Meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO.

The outgoing year was fairly challenging for us in our line of work, as it was for everyone else working in other areas. We strived to uphold the ideals of justice and loyalty to international law, and democracy in international affairs. Unfortunately, the objective trend towards the emerging multipolar world runs into the stubborn reluctance of those who, for several centuries, have been deciding the fate of the world, to renounce their hegemony and domination in international affairs, even though they now lack the strength for it. Moreover, the issues that arise in international relations can be resolved only through collective effort.

Unfortunately, international humanitarian cooperation, the work that you and I are doing, has been seriously tested by these attempts to politicise the situation, and to resort to not entirely pure methods, including attempts to politicise the activities of organisations such as UNESCO.

We have advocated and will continue to advocate for an end to such attempts to politicise the work of this noble forum, and we want all of us to strictly abide by the mandate of this organisation of ours.

Speaking at the opening of the St Petersburg International Cultural Forum on November 17, President Putin noted that culture, art, and education provide an answer to the challenges of barbarism, intolerance, and aggressive radicalism which threaten our entire civilisation. We took note of the new Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay’s call for depoliticisation and joint efforts in addressing common pressing problems. We expect that these intentions will turn into practical deeds. I believe that the commitment to the traditional values ​​of UNESCO, and ensuring the non-confrontational nature of the key areas of its activities are the recipe for success.

The outgoing year was good for our dialogue with the Organisation. The 39th session of the General Conference was an important event. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Olga Vasilyeva, who led the Russian delegation and achieved positive results for both the Russian Federation and UNESCO in general.

The revised version of the Strategy for Reinforcing UNESCO's Action for the Protection of Culture and the Promotion of Cultural Pluralism in the Event of Armed Conflict adopted during the session reflects our priorities and provides a good foundation for progressive development of cooperation in this sphere. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between the State Hermitage and UNESCO on the protection and restoration of cultural treasures in conflict zones came as a significant step in this area.

In the wake of serious damage inflicted by terrorists to the rich cultural and historical heritage of the Middle East, we are striving to re-energise UNESCO's activities to restore Palmyra and Aleppo monuments. Unfortunately, things slowed down following the first few positive steps, as the pressure that continues to be applied to the UNESCO Secretariat reflects that regrettable fact that political considerations continue to prevail over common sense.

Significant progress was made in promoting educational and awareness projects. As I mentioned earlier, a session of the General Conference took place in November, at which it was decided to create, under the auspices of UNESCO, an International Competence Centre in Mining Education at the St Petersburg Mining University. The General Conference resolved to include in the calendar of  memorable dates of 2018−2019, anniversary dates related to names such as Maxim Gorky, Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Marius Petipa. On our initiative, 2019 was proclaimed International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.

Two more of our sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017, namely, the Assumption Cathedral and the Monastery of the Island Town of Sviyazhsk, as well as the Russian-Mongolian Landscapes of Dauria natural project. So, today Russia is on the list of the world’s top 10 states with its 29 cultural and natural World Heritage sites. Ensuring their safety in close coordination between all relevant departments and regions is what matters now.

It is in our interest to engage the potential of UNESCO to promote cultural cooperation in the vast Eurasian space. This topic was discussed during my recent meeting with the heads of a number of Russian regions. In particular, we supported the establishment of the Eurasian Cultural Centre in Moscow, the International Centre of the Epos of the Eurasian Peoples in Yakutsk, and the Archaeological Centre in Khakassia. The 2nd Eurasian Humanitarian Forum dedicated to professional training was held in Bashkiria in July. The appointment of Mintimer Shaimiyev as UNESCO Special Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue speaks volumes about the high assessment of the contribution made by our regions to promoting international cultural cooperation.

We pay special attention to protecting journalists in areas of armed conflicts, countering fake new and media radicalisation, raising the quality of vocational training and developing recommendations for ethical conduct when it comes to the work of UNESCO in the sphere of communication and information.

Given the leading role of UNESCO in developing international approaches to addressing matters related to information society and ensuring information security in the cultural sphere, we will continue to increase our participation in intergovernmental programmes such as Information for All, Development of Communication, and Memory of the World. We will continue to provide comprehensive support to the relevant Russian committees’ activities.

We welcome the decision of the 202nd session of the UNESCO’s Executive Board to update the Charter of the Memory of the World Programme in order to depoliticise it. With the energetic participation of the Russian Committee of UNESCO Information for All Programme in June, the 3rd World Meeting of UNESCO Experts entitled “Multilingualism in cyberspace for inclusive sustainable development” was held in Khanty-Mansiysk. It contributed to implementing the resolutions of the World Summit on the Information Society.

Energetic efforts were made to strengthen our positions at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and we managed to retain our place in the Executive Council of this structure.

Good results were achieved as part of the Man and the Biosphere Programme. Largely thanks to our efforts, it was decided, at the 29th session of the International Coordinating Council, which is the governing body of the Programme, to include three Russian biosphere reserves in the UNESCO World Network, as well as to create the first cross-border reserve in Russia jointly with Kazakhstan.

Global Geoparks ranks high on the list of UNESCO’s most popular projects. We welcome and encourage the interest of our regions in this work. With the assistance of the Russian Committee of the International Geosciences and Geoparks Programme, we filed an application for creating the first such site in Bashkortostan. The Republic of Altai and the Irkutsk Region are next.

We continued our studies, in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development and the UNESCO Chair at Moscow State University, of global issues within the framework of UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations Programme. It resulted in developing the International Master's Programme on Social Transformations.

Increased attention in the outgoing year was paid to forming a cluster of secondary vocational training institutions within the network of UNESCO Associated Schools. The 10th International Conference “Ob-Irtysh basin: Youth studies and preserves the natural and cultural heritage in the regions of the great rivers of the world” was held in Khanty-Mansiysk in May (the name sounds a bit long, but states the matter quite clearly and concretely, I believe).

We attach great importance to developing another UNESCO educational network − the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme − that turned 25 this year. We believe it is important to step up cooperation in this area in order to popularise our scientific and practical achievements, and to form an objective image of Russia in the international educational space.

In the coming year, we will witness a lot of vivid and exciting events hosted by UNESCO. Among them, the celebration of International Jazz Day in St Petersburg on April 30, 2018. The choice of this city on the Neva River as the World Capital of Jazz-2018 (kudos to Igor Butman), of course, speaks to the recognition of Russia's significant contribution to promoting this wonderful music genre.

In closing, I would like to wish everyone Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. All the best to you, your families and your loved ones.

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