Statement by Kuznetsov A.I., the head of Russian delegation for the 204 UNESCO Executive Board's session

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Mr Chairperson,

Madam Director-General,

Mrs. President of the General Conference,

Dear colleagues,

This Executive Board's session is taking place at a challenging period in the history of organization. We should establish constructive working relationship between the Executive Board and Director-General, define the common vision of the future of the UNESCO, determine the priorities of organization's reform to increase the effectiveness and its unique mandate value in the United Nations system.

We have all the prerequisites for the progress of the collaborative work. We are satisfied to note that the Director-General managed to significantly improve the financial situation of the UNESCO within a short period. We've acknowledged the "strategic transformation" concept submitted by Mrs. Azoulay with great interest. It definitely requires further study, but let me hasten to say that we must keep in mind the intergovernmental nature of our Organization. All members should be closely involved in the reform process and there should be more emphasis on their opinion in order to make reforms successful. Perpetuating open ended face-to-face consultations will establish a better dialogue between Member States and the secretariat. We are ready for constructive cooperation guided by these principles.

We have repeatedly stated that the clues to UNESCO reforming are not in the procedure issues, such as changing the rules of election of the Director-General, rotating Executive Board members etc, but in its policy work improvement. We cannot extend it forever due to objective financial constraints. Instead we should focus on clearly defined priorities in its areas of competence. At the same time the Organization should not loose its potential, for example, in basic science as a platform for applied studies.

Moreover, such concentration of efforts also means UNESCO exemption from activities that do not correspond with its mandate. We should remove the political questions that could not be deliberately solved within UNESCO from its agenda and redirect them to other UN forums. At the same time we believe that UNESCO should not depart from gross violations of its principles and values.

I'm talking about Convention against Discrimination in Education that was roughly violated by the Ukrainian law about education and by the revocation of the law on the principles of State language policy, as well as changing the law about education in Latvia. While we discuss the ideas of peace and non-violence, equal and inclusive education in UNESCO, these countries prohibit teaching being conducted in the languages of national communities. The legitimate interests of more than a third of Latvian population are infringed, whereas Kiev discriminate not only Russian language, but also languages of a variety of countries, whose representatives are at the table with us. We expect UNESCO to provide an honest public appraisal of these actions.

Mr. President,

We highly appreciate the strong focus of the Director-General on the protection and rehabilitation of cultural heritage of the war-affected Middle East, which is a highly important scope of the organization's mandate. This was proposed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2347. Also we welcome the Director-General efforts in restoration of the old city of Mosul in Iraq. At the same time we expect the Director-General to actually make the cultural heritage of Syria, that inherently has no political affiliation, one of the highest priorities. We encourage UNESCO to revitalize the restoration of cultural sites in Palmira and Aleppo affected by terrorist attacks.

Dear colleagues,

We view with great alarm the growth in incidents of racism, aggressive nationalism and religious intolerance the world over. Things have come to such a pass that in Europe, which sacrificed millions of lives on the altar of victory over Nazism, people are beginning to rewrite history and whitewash Hitlerite collaborators, and are waging war against monuments to liberation heroes. We consider it a matter of urgency to devote close attention to this phenomenon and to ensure the necessary legal safeguards to halt such acts.

The preservation of interethnic and interreligious harmony, the creation of conditions for peaceful co-existence in mutual respect of various cultures and ethnic groups – this is an urgent task for us today. We hope that through our joint efforts we may succeed in harnessing the constructive potential of our Organization in favour of peace, stability and development for the protection of cultural diversity and enduring ethical values.