Statement delivered by H.E. Mr Gennady GATILOV,
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,
at the 199th session of the Executive Board
7 April, 2016
The agenda of the199th session, as previous sessions, is full. This testifies to the demand for the Organization a moral ethical structure of international relations.
The world is going through a very difficult period characterized by instability in the field of politics, economics and social affairs. We are very concerned over the growing turbulence that is engulfing more and more different areas – North Africa, the Middle East, European countries. The fallout from intolerance, vandalism, terrorist attacks is becoming a day-to-day reality.
We are convinced that UNESCO as a major humanist organization in the UN system must deliver an appropriate response to cruelty whatever form it takes: either attacks on human life or a destruction of holy places of different faiths on the grounds of intercultural disputes. We have one common home and one common heritage. And we are pleased that UNESCO is using its legal basis to consolidate its leadership in the forefront of international efforts to eradicate and prevent these negative trends.
In this regard we welcome the efforts of Member States of the Organization to mobilize efforts in order to preserve the cultural heritage of Syria. Russia as you know has done a great deal to normalize the situation in this country and has thus actively contributed to create the conditions to save the remaining cultural treasures.
Russia firmly condemns the premeditated criminal destruction of the cultural heritage and the cultural treasures and museums of Syria, firmly condemns the damage done to the monuments of Palmyra by the so called Islamic State, voices its support for the Syrian people and welcomes the efforts of the Syrian army to liberate the city.
It is essential now that UNESCO actively implements the monitoring of the situation in Palmyra in order to send international mission of experts to assess the damage and to prepare the plan for the restauration and repairs work. In the recent telephone conversation President Vladimir Putin and the Director-General of UNESCO Mrs Bokova agreed that with further combined efforts of the international community it will be possible to save this invaluable legacy of humanity. Russia has initiated the adoption at this session of the Board of a decision “UNESCO’s Role in Safeguarding and Preserving Palmyra and other Syrian World Heritage sites”. We count on this support by the Member States for this initiative. We feel that it is essential to set aside political ambitions and to combine efforts in order to settle this key matter.
Another vital theme for this session is to adapt the global development agenda for 2030 into the program activity of UNESCO and above all to the sphere of education. This must be comprehensively reflected in the Program and budget of UNESCO for 2018-19.
It is also important that our Organization should not only quickly respond to emerging challenges but should also create new opportunities for a broad and direct dialogue of all interested parties on the most complex issues without allowing its work to be politicized. The temptation to use the humanitarian nature of UNESCO to achieve narrow political ambitions which we are seeing among some Member States unfortunately has been growing at UNESCO and this has not been helping to actually settle problems. Steps taken must be both measured, realistic and achievable.
And I wish everybody a very constructive session.
Thank you for your attention.