General Meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO

On April 29, 2019, a formal General Meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO was held in Moscow under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The meeting celebrated the 65th anniversary of Russia’s entry into the organization, as well as the 30th anniversary of Russia’s accession to the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which is one of UNESCO’s key multilateral documents. 

This meeting was the main event of the landmark year. It was attended by the heads of diplomatic missions of the Commonwealth of Inde­pendent States and Baltic countries, fe­deral ministers, heads of constituent entities of the Russian Federation, members of the Fede­ration Council and deputies of the State Duma, heads of UNESCO program and regional committees in Russia, prominent figures in national media, culture, education, and science, and representatives of the business community.

In December 2018, as per an order by the government of the Russian Federation,  the number of members of the Commission increased from 87 to 115 persons. Thus, many of the guests attended the event having recently assumed their new roles in the Commission. 

An exhibition dedicated to Russia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites was organized through the support of the PhosAgro Company and the International Shodiev Foundation. A special issue of the “Vestnik of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO” was also published for the meeting, containing detailed information about all of UNESCO’s areas of interest. 

In his welcoming address, the Chairman of the Commission expressed his appreciation for Russia’s 65 years of productive and meaningful participation in UNESCO. He discussed further efforts to strengthen our country’s position in this major intergovernmental organization, especially in light of the meeting held between President Vladimir Putin and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azouley last March. 

The Minister emphasized Russia’s leading position in the field of education and scientific cooperation. He noted that the Committee on UNESCO educational programs was established under the Commission in December of last year in order to continue strengthening that position. Further, he announced that Russia is considering the possibility of establishing an annual Mendeleev Prize for achievements in the field of fundamental sciences, to be awarded jointly with UNESCO. 

Sergey Lavrov then highlighted the Commission’s achievements in the promotion of Russian cultural initiatives. In 2018, Russia and many other countries held successful events dedicated to the anniversaries of outstanding Russian and international cultural figures, including Maxim Gorky, Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Marius Petipa. Their names were included in the 2018/19 UNESCO calendar of important dates.  

The Minister made sure to mention the increasing importance of artificial intelligence as one of UNESCO’s new priority issues and announced that Russia will actively participate in the development of an agenda that focuses on this issue. 

Sergey Lavrov then announced that elections to the Executive Council of the Organization and the World Heritage Committee will be held later this year and that Russia plans to be elected. 

The Minister also stressed that Russia will continue to promote a positive, unifying agenda, and expressed his certainty that the wide range of collaborative activities with UNESCO will continue to break new ground. 

The audience was shown a video message by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, in which she commended the Russian Commission on their contribution to the activities of UNESCO and praised the members for their active work in all of UNESCO’s areas of expertise. 

The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for UNESCO of the Republic of Belarus, Natalya Schasnovich, read out the greeting of the Republic’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO of the Republic of Belarus, Vladimir Makei. 

The official part of the General Meeting concluded with a ceremony and the awarding of honorary diplomas and commemorative medals created by Zurab Tsereteli. Awards were presented to the Minister of Education, Olga Vasilyeva; the General Director of PhosAgro Company, Andrey Guriev; the Director of the Institute of Chemistry and Problems of Sustainable Development, Natalia Tarasova; and General Director of the Russian Museum of Musical Culture, Mikhail Bryzgalov, for their great personal contribution to the Commission and collaboration with UNESCO. The Secretary-­General of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, Ambassador-at-large Grigory Ordzhonikidze was awarded an honorary diploma of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

The event finished off with a gala concert starring well-known Russian performers, which was hosted by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoy. Among the performers were “The Academic Band,” under the direction of the Honored Artist of Russia, Anatoly Kroll; Honored Artists of Russia and UNESCO Artists for Peace, Alsou (Alsou Abramova) and Zara (Zarifa Mgoyan); and Honored Artist of Russia Sergey Zhilin. Their performances helped generate a truly festive atmosphere. 

Natalia Belyaevskaya