26 October 2011

Opening remarks by H.E. Ms Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova, Chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO


Distinguished President of the General Conference, Distinguished Madam Director-General, Distinguished delegates to the 36th session of the General Conference, Dear colleagues and friends, Today is a special occasion for me to address the large family of representatives of 193 nations, observer missions, NGO community and the media here at UNESCO Headquarters. On behalf of all 58 Members of the Executive Board, I am extremely pleased to welcome you to the opening of this 36th session of the General Conference. As you know, this session will end the biennium during which I had the task of chairing the work of the Executive Board which remains at the disposal of the General Conference up to its closing. This session of the General Conference occurs at an important moment of increased awareness, on the international stage, of the importance of multilateral work – of the importance of the United Nations system in general, and of the role of our Organization in particular. Without exaggeration, these have been a complicated two years defining the course of world events. The never-ending sequence of unprecedented natural disasters, breakdown of confidence and global crises – and I think that the current world economic trends are from being sustainable – all demanded a large-scale mobilization of efforts and deep solidarity for the entire world community. The world has undergone the most serious changes of a social, political, economic and cultural nature, first and foremost in the Middle East and Northern Africa. All these changes have affected many areas of human activity directly related to UNESCO’s fields of competence. UNESCO itself has been and is still undergoing a process of reform, tough restructuring and performing its deliverables – all in particular circumstances of limited resources. The Executive Board for its part has assisted in reinforcing the viability of the Organization in its efforts to quickly react to the challenges of a swiftly changing modern world. So far, these difficult two years can also be globally characterized as the period of concrete achievements, great promises and hopes; one of them is that our Organization has not to fail in its provision of political and moral leadership within its expanded mandate. Despite big constraints, UNESCO must be more ambitious with regard to its core lines of action and above all the education, in particular the Education for All program. Here UNESCO must start to plan practical strategic actions beyond 2015, especially considering the Millennium Development Goal 2 – Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling – which is unlikely to be achieved. For this, UNESCO must undertake broad mobilization of partnerships and resources. Ladies and gentlemen, It is not for nothing that this 36th session of the General Conference has concentrated its attention on such important topics as the problem of building a culture of peace and achieving sustainable development, submitted for discussion at tomorrow’s Leaders’ Forum and the reinforcement of the idea of cultural diversity, which will be the subject of the high-level discussion on 2 November. I should like, if I may, to put the following question: who ultimately must assume the burden of diffusing and promoting, constantly and universally, these and other ideas which are put into practice by UNESCO? Who do we think of first when we say the word “UNESCO”? Advancing these noble ideas in people’s minds is, of course, our joint responsibility. Perhaps to an even greater degree, it is that of the Member States themselves, since the Secretariat is basically a well-coordinated mechanism in their hands. Therefore, it seems to me that the activity and effectiveness of our Organization directly depend on the role of the General Conference and of the Executive Board, while not minimizing in any way the role of the Director-General. And this must be a role that is constantly increasing. In its action UNESCO always relies on the political and financial support of its Member States. UNESCO is as effective as its contributors. Therefore I appeal to the representatives of the political elite of UNESCO’s Member States assembled here. Much in your own countries and in the wider global community depends on your will. You have every opportunity to fulfil at national level the commitments agreed upon internationally. It is within your power to implement the Organization’s program of activities, including the diffusion of the culture of peace and sustainable development, by aligning policy in the field of education with humanist values. For sustainable development rests on three pillars: the economy, the environment and, primarily, society. And it is only possible to achieve significant progress in the development of society through education, science and culture. Esteemed colleagues, In spite of the occasionally strident criticism which, by the way, all international institutions encounter, no one, I think, doubts that UNESCO, throughout its existence, has done much in its fields of competence to consolidate peace and security in our world. This is the priceless potential we have built up over the years. Looking to the future with optimism, I should like to appeal to all of UNESCO’s Member States and to present and future Members of its Executive Board without exception to contribute with even greater enthusiasm to the effective and, to the greatest extent possible, the transparent execution of the difficult tasks before the Organization. At a time when global society is searching for ways to renew the very system of international relations, this requires from all of us an intelligent combination of time, energy, flexibility, decisiveness and cohesion in order to achieve palpable and mutually acceptable results, something which should be directly reflected in the work of the present session of the General Conference. To all of you I wish success. Thank you for your attention.