The 42nd session of UNESCO General Conference

The Russian delegation headed by Alexander Pankin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, took part in the 42nd session of the General Conference of UNESCO, the highest governing body of the Organization. During the event, elections to the governing bodies of UNESCO and its intergovernmental and international programmes took place. Russia was re-elected to the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee and the Council of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme.

The participants discussed the development of recommendations on the ethical use of neurotechnologies and on educating the younger generation in the spirit of international understanding, cooperation, and peace.

High-level meetings featuring ministers of education, a Youth Forum, and UNESCO Partners’ Forum were held on the sidelines of the event.

Speech by the Head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Alexander Pankin at the 42nd session of the UNESCO General Conference, November 8, 2023

Dear Madam President,
Madam Director General,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are witnessing tectonic shifts in international relations. There are attempts to replace the UN-centric global structure with a certain opportunistic “rule-based order” that has led to a systemic crisis that affected UNESCO platform as well. The reason for this is the notorious double standards, selective approach and miscalculations. Some international stories are brought to the fore and are artificially inflated, while other conflicts and problems are completely overlooked, including the bloodshed, victims and the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian Territories. Russia supports the Arab initiative and the draft resolution on Gaza/Palestine — we will be co-authors of this project.

Moreover, we find the division of journalists, cultural and natural heritage, languages, students, and so on into worthy or unworthy of assistance and attention, into “friends” and “foes,” unacceptable.

The obsessive “Ukrainization” of the agenda, based on lies and malice, leads UNESCO to a dead end; it diverts resources from solving pressing issues in the areas of the Organization’s mandate. It turns this platform into a propaganda show, including, probably, the one that we are about to see today from a married woman from Kiev invited here as a guest speaker by nobody knows who, how, when and why.

We believe that the long-term geographical staffing bias in in favor of those who are used to looking down on the rest of the world from a position of comfort and dominance does not benefit the Organization.

Now, more than ever, it is necessary to revert to compliance with the letter and spirit of the UNESCO Constitution, to strengthen genuine multilateralism, moving forward on the back of balance of interests, respect for civilizational diversity and sovereign equality of all states. The 45th session of the World Heritage Committee in Riyadh shows that such professional, mutually beneficial dialogue is possible.

We are convinced that everyone should have the same opportunities to contribute to the common effort, and same responsibility, including financial one. Surely, abuses regarding the admission of diplomats and experts to the activities of the Organization are unacceptable, such as when they are waiting for visas to France, the host country, for months.

We call for reinforcing Africa Global Priority. The countries of the continent need assistance, first of all, in building their own capacities in order to find African solutions to African problems, to create their own agenda without recipes imposed from outside. This is why we have decided to make a voluntary contribution to activities in Africa through the International Programme for the Development of Communication.

We support the updated UNESCO Operational Strategy for Small Island Developing States.

We believe that for successful implementation of SDG 4, UNESCO needs to focus on teacher training with an emphasis on Africa and Small Island States.

UNESCO should double down on combating discrimination in education. We call for protecting children of national minorities and for responding to the squeezing of the Russian language out of the education systems of Latvia, Ukraine and Estonia.

In order to create additional incentives for talented scientists and support scientific breakthroughs, we have established and are funding a major annual award, the Russia–UNESCO Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences. The second award ceremony will take place this December in Moscow.

For the seventh time, the Green Chemistry for Life programme established by the Russian company PhosAgro has distributed research grants to young promising scientists from around the world.

We see the Russian Code of Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, which is already joined by almost 250 public and private organizations from 17 countries, as a significant contribution to the implementation of the relevant UNESCO Recommendation. Russian experts are ready to participate in the development of a new recommendation on the ethical use of neurotechnologies.

Russia, one of the largest donors to the Fund for the Elimination of Doping in Sport, consistently defends the principle of “clean” sport within the framework of the relevant International Convention.

We are focused on strengthening cooperation within UNESCO on multilingualism and contribute to the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. Their preservation and dispersion is a long-term priority in our state policy, enshrined in the Russian Constitution.

We advocate for the inclusion of culture as a standalone goal in the post-2030 development agenda. We need concrete measures to increase the geographical representation of the World Heritage List, to foster the prevention of illicit trafficking in cultural property, to ensure its return and restitution to the countries and communities of its origin.

Over the years of being a member of the UNESCO Executive Board, we have accumulated extensive experience in coordinating important issues in all areas of programme activity. In case of our reelection, we intend to further promote a professional depoliticized dialogue on programme issues and to work thoroughly in key areas using our experience, expertise, fair and mutually respectful approaches.

Thank you.