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Embassy News

11.16.2015

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's article, Humanitarian Partnership for Peace and Stability (for UNESCO's 70th anniversary), published by the newspaper Kommersant on November 16, 2015

This year, the international community marks the anniversaries of several major events that determined the course of history for decades to come. These include the 70th anniversary of Victory in World War II and the 70th anniversary of the UN, which was established to prevent a repetition of tragedies such as WWII.

The history of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is closely connected with these events. It was established to promote a shared understanding that the peaceful development of humankind must rely not only on military, political and economic tools, but also on humanity's moral and intellectual solidarity.

The idea of creating an international cultural and educational space, in which the rising generations would develop immunity against violence, was advanced at the height of a global conflict. A conference of the Allies' education ministers began in Britain in 1942, which the Soviet Union and the United States joined as observer countries in 1943. The conference helped formulate an initiative for a special UN agency on this issue. The UNESCO Constitution, which was adopted at the London Conference on November 16, 1945, set forth the goal of advancing the objectives of international peace and the common welfare of mankind through the educational, scientific and cultural relations.

In the 70 years since then, the 195-member organisation has grown into the humanitarian cornerstone of the international architecture and a unique multilateral forum for the protection of humankind's vital values, cultural heritage and the environment. It has made an invaluable contribution to improving international relations and to the sustainable progress of modern civilisation.

By joining UNESCO in 1954, our country gained additional opportunities for participation in international cooperation in education, science, culture and information and also helped increase UNESCO's contribution to addressing current issues.

It can be safely said that Russia's cooperation with UNESCO is a case of mutually beneficial partnership. It is difficult to imagine the development of education, science, culture and communications in Russia without UNESCO's contribution. Likewise, Russia's contribution has facilitated the implementation of UNESCO initiatives and projects aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity, the development of fundamental sciences, the protection of world heritage, the maintenance of national identity, the development of the ethics of scientific and technical progress, journalists' security and Internet governance.

Given the current turbulent international situation, with growing instability, crises and rivalry in all spheres, UNESCO can and should play a bigger role in maintaining international trust and mutual understanding, preventing the division of the world according to civilisational and religious differences and encouraging cultural plurality. We firmly believe that UNESCO can contribute to the achievement of these ambitious goals in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in New York in September of this year.

As we witness the rise of terrorism at an unprecedented scale in the Middle East and North Africa, systemic efforts to counter extremism, xenophobia, and racial and religious intolerance are gaining momentum. Another relevant area to work on is protecting the world cultural heritage, which is suffering serious damage from the barbarous acts committed by ISIS. The 1954 UN Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict provides a solid legal framework for stepping up collective action. It builds upon the ideas of our compatriot, Nikolai Roerich, enshrined in the first ever multilateral instrument on the protection of cultural heritage, which he had spearheaded 80 years ago. Nikolai Roerich's efforts to promote this vision were underpinned, in part, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky's famous assertion that beauty will save the world.

At UNESCO's 38th General Assembly in Paris, Russia reaffirmed its commitment, as a great cultural power, and building on the centuries-old traditions of peaceful coexistence of various ethnic and religious groups, to continue its proactive and constructive engagement with the Organisation by helping it deliver on major tasks it has set for itself. We support the initiatives by UNESCO and its Director-General Irina Bokova to uphold the ideals, objectives and principles enshrined in the Organisation's statutory documents.

Unfortunately, humanitarian ties are being politicised increasingly often, including discriminatory actions against cultural workers and artists, bans on imports of exhibition items and demolition of historical monuments. It is clear that actions of this kind along with restrictions imposed on journalists and discrimination against the media on ethnic grounds violate the right to cultural and intellectual communication, and pave the way to new dividing lines. Russia has proposed adopting an international document to support freedom of exchange and cooperation in culture and the arts, and we will be consistent in pushing for its approval in keeping with the founding values of the Organisation.

I'm confident that in this rapidly changing world UNESCO's creative potential should be put to the fullest possible use for ensuring stability and progress to the benefit of all countries and peoples.

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