Distinguished Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished Director General,
Distinguished President of the General Conference,
Dear members of the Executive Board,
International relations are going through a difficult historical stage: general unpredictability is enhanced, the space of constructive interaction is narrowed.
Against this background, the international community more than ever needs such an organization as UNESCO, which has traditionally been a place of equal dialogue, where the culture of consensus reigns, there is no ideological dictate or dominance of any group of countries.
It is from such positions that the crucial issue of reforming the Organization should be approached. The decisive role in determining the strategic direction of the development of UNESCO belongs to the General Conference and the Executive Board. Their prerogatives must be respected. We expect the Director General to submit to member countries consolidated proposals for improving program activities in the form of a full-fledged concept. At the same time, the adaptation of UNESCO to the challenges of our time should not lead to the erosion of the main mandate of the Organization, duplication of the other UN bodies activities.
The world needs UNESCO where no one else can replace it. One of the most relevant areas is the implementation of the Strategy for the Protection of Culture and the Promotion of Cultural Pluralism in the Event of Armed Conflict. The organization began a project to revive the old city of Mosul. No less urgent is the task of restoring the cultural heritage of Syria. We call on UNESCO to get involved in the restoration of the monuments of Palmyra and Aleppo destroyed by the terrorists. Russian scientists carried out significant preparatory work. Their efforts created a 3D landscape model of the ancient city of Palmyra. The Russian
State Hermitage Museum is ready to accept a group of Syrian restorers for an internship. We expect UNESCO to take practical steps to fill in the content of the Memorandum signed in October 2017 between the Organization and the Hermitage on the protection and restoration of cultural property in conflict zones, particularly in the Middle East.
The decisions considered at this session on proclaiming International Mathematics Day and developing cooperation with SESAME are a good basis for building up cooperation in such a traditional area for UNESCO as the natural sciences. The format of the International Year of the Mendeleev Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements in 2019 is already becoming certain. This opens up broad opportunities for UNESCO to popularize science and attract new partners.
Russia supports sports and anti-doping programs of UNESCO, including structurally and financially. We welcome the efforts aimed at implementing the Kazan Action Plan, enhancing the role of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Culture and Sports (CIGEPS), as well as the interstate potential of the International Convention against Doping in Sport.
We are convinced of the need to strengthen the work of UNESCO in the information direction. Concern is caused by the trend associated with attempts by some countries under the pretext of fighting the so-called "fake" news to restrict freedom of speech, form white and black lists of the media, which divide the media into good and bad.
Mr. Chairperson, we believe that UNESCO should take a more proactive stance in cases of gross violations of its regulations. We are talking about Ukraine and Latvia, which are parties to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education. These states have sharply limited the access of national minorities to education in their native language, which leads to an escalation of inter-ethnic tensions. We expect from UNESCO an objective public assessment of such actions.
The Chairperson of the National Commission for UNESCO, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, speaking recently from the UN General Assembly, expressed the hope that "the culture of mutually respectful dialogue will ultimately prevail." At UNESCO, as well as at other international platforms, Russia will contribute to this in every possible way.
Thank you for your attention.