6 April 2010

Opening remarks by H.E. Ms Eleanora Valentinovna Mitrofanova Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO


Madam Director-General,

Excellencies and dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to declare open the 184th session of the Executive Board!

The present session opens a new phase in the life of our Organization. It is indeed the first session of the new 2010-2011 biennium. As newly elected Chairperson, I have the honour to lead, together with the Vice-Chairs, the work of the Board in its new composition. I am in no doubt that the spirit of our work will be based on the principles of consensus and close collaboration and dialogue between the Board’s old and new Members, and particularly with the new Director-General and her management team.

Moving beyond such hopes, which refresh us in these early spring days, I feel confident that the Board will efficiently discharge its primary constitutional duty, which is to take all necessary measures to further ensure the rational and successful execution of UNESCO’s programme.

Dear colleagues, please allow me to thank you all, and especially the Vice-Chairs of the Board, Chairs of electoral groups and Members of the Bureau, for having supported me regarding the first measures I intend to take with regard to the methods of work of our Body, which are to be clear and transparent, with increased effectiveness and reduced costs, with the maximum time frame devoted to balanced debates and decision-making on the most important topics. Let us all make our best effort to avoid subjective discussions often leading to extended meetings and automatically to additional expenses. Let us go straight to the point in our questions and queries, and expect from the Secretariat concise and concrete answers and reactions. I hope that I can count on your substantive and continued support in these matters. The changes in agenda and documentation are experimental and we shall, I hope, be able to do more with the feedback I get from you after this session.

Dear friends, since the last session, significant events have brought about changes in the international social and political environment. One of these events deserves special mention – the deadly earthquake in Haiti which has challenged the international community at the very beginning of this new decade.

UNESCO has responded to Haiti’s suffering rapidly and with dedication, and I wish to congratulate you, Director-General, for the immediate action that was taken to provide cross-cutting assistance within all fields of competence of the Organization, in particular for the preservation of Haiti’s cultural heritage. One of the lessons learnt is that even the most devastating tragedy can be surpassed by adopting a shared sense of responsibility and a spirit of solidarity, which should, of course, not be a short-term project but a long-term endeavour.

Madam Director-General, one dimension of the visibility of your action during UNESCO’s campaign in helping Haiti is constant broad, interactive communication. Indeed, Member States appreciate the new methods of information adopted and I encourage you to continue with this in-House exchange and also its possible improvement for outside communication, taking into consideration our increasingly digitalized environment. Here, I would like to highlight the need for UNESCO to strive for a higher qualitative level of cooperation with the mass media. Thus I think it would be appropriate to start thinking about initiating a UNESCO Press Club to advocate the Organization’s worldwide mission, not least because UNESCO, within the United Nations, is the designated promoter of press freedom and freedom of expression.

You may wish to consider this last thought as an additional element to the recommendations from the Task Forces you set up for the optimization of UNESCO’s work. Indeed, we are awaiting with special attention the conclusions of the Task Forces and we will follow with particular interest the developments in the Secretariat structure which will obviously influence the management and the results of UNESCO’s achievements to come. In this challenging context, it is our common duty to provide substantive intellectual support for the Director-General’s aspiration to “fine-tune” the Secretariat.

Dear colleagues, undoubtedly, reform has to continue to enable UNESCO to carry out its heavy responsibilities dynamically and in a more visible way, a matter to which the Board will certainly make its objective contribution. In return, the legitimate interests of Member States have to be respected, not only from the standpoint of the budgetary consequences of reform but with a view to ensuring that reform measures in no way hamper programme execution.

A philosopher once said that a tool in use was a tool in development. As a living body, UNESCO must constantly adapt to new challenges. The Board’s solid debates will help to confirm and strengthen the vitality of the Organization in its efforts to face the challenges of a rapidly changing world. In maintaining its status as major contributor of ideas, assistance, and facilities, UNESCO has a bigger role to play as an initiator of positive change in societies.

Distinguished delegates, UNESCO is an intellectual organization with diversified but interdependent fields of competence, and ideals that are noble and fundamental. This is not just idealism but a way of underlining, once more, that everyone associated with UNESCO can justifiably have a shared dream today. We now have to play a critical role for UNESCO’s future. It is also our duty to think now about the future of the world in general.

So let us dream, a legitimate dream, of a world where the development of all nations takes place against a backdrop of cultural rapprochement; where there is no place for violence and discrimination, and where a war of cultures is once and for all replaced by a culture of peace and tolerance.

Let us build a world where sciences are the driving force of progress, and knowledge is fairly and evenly harnessed to improve everybody’s conditions of life; where humankind lives in harmony with nature. Let us redouble our commitment, let us be greater visionaries, let us be unshakeable sources of inspiration for new generations, let us do our utmost to see – per aspera ad astra – that our dream comes true.

Dear colleagues, dear friends! I appeal to everyone to be fully receptive to constructive cooperation in the interests of UNESCO, within the context of the current session of the Executive Board and in our daily work. We will then be able to demonstrate that UNESCO has, as never before, an intellectual and moral raison d’кtre!

I have every reason to be confident of this. A clear example is furnished by the many condolences sent to my country in connection with the recent acts of terrorism. People in Moscow were deeply moved by these expressions of sympathy and support at this tragic time for the Russian people and greatly appreciate the firm condemnation by the international community of all acts of terrorism, which have no justification. On behalf of the President of the Russian Federation and on my own behalf, I wish to thank the Director-General of UNESCO and, through you, the leadership of your countries for their demonstration of solidarity.

I should also like on your behalf to express sincere condolences to the delegations of Pakistan and Iraq in whose countries severe acts of terrorism have been perpetrated in recent days, leading to the death of innocent people and damage to the diplomatic representations of Germany, Islamic Republic of Iran, Spain, Syria, Russian Federation, United States of America and, especially, Egypt, whose employees were also injured.

I should like to ask you to observe one minute’s silence in honour of the victims.

Thank you!