Ms General Conference Chair,
Esteemed Executive Board members,
The current global situation is marked by a number of dangerous trends, including the destabilisation of the foundation of international law, greater instability, the chaotic fragmentation of global space and more profound mistrust between the parties involved in international relations.
Against this backdrop, the mandate of UNESCO, an organisation whose official goal is to strengthen the intellectual and moral solidarity of humankind, remains unprecedentedly popular. UNESCO can and should contribute to overcoming the international community’s disunity. For this purpose, it is necessary to adhere to the traditional culture of consensus that has asserted itself at UNESCO. It is unacceptable to push through aggressive resolutions that have nothing in common with the Organisation’s mandate, to use this forum for internationalising initiatives that have been coordinated by an inner circle of “chosen” nations, in the spirit of the well-known rules-based order where the rules change depending on political considerations and where their legitimacy is measured by loyalty towards a certain group of countries.
We are satisfied with the stabilisation of UNESCO’s financial standing. We welcome the Director General’s efforts to attract extra-budgetary funding. At the same time, matters of financial discipline and adequate governance require constant attention.
Urgent measures are needed to rectify geographical disproportions at the Secretariat. Otherwise this creates the false impression that only one region or even one country has highly competent personnel. This seriously increases the risk of a kind of “privatisation” of UNESCO and its use for advancing one’s own agenda in circumvention of universal mechanisms.
We are calling for a cautious and responsible approach towards amending the UNESCO Constitution. We are concerned that controversial procedural matters are distracting member states from topical affairs, primarily efforts aimed at streamlining UNESCO’s official activities. We regret the fact that the Secretariat has failed to submit the consolidated substantive proposals on UNESCO’s strategic transformation process, as formalised by the decisions of the two previous sessions. We hope that this mishap will be corrected by the spring of 2020.
High-priority global tasks include the elaboration of generally acceptable approaches towards regulating the digital sector and the comprehension of processes linked with the creation of artificial intelligence. We are grateful to the Director-General for initiating the relevant intra-UNESCO discussion, and we are actively involved in it.
The restoration of World Heritage sites in Syria that were damaged by terrorists is on the agenda. We simply have to display moral solidarity here. As the example of Mosul, Iraq, shows, UNESCO can mobilise the required resources when it wants to. We deem it necessary to launch a similar campaign with regard to Old Aleppo and Palmyra.
We are concerned over the Organisation’s calm response to the violation of ethnic minorities’ rights to study in their native languages in Ukraine and Lithuania. We don’t want to think that the Secretariat’s top officials are afraid to speak out in the defence of the Russian language only because it is Russian.
We support UNESCO’s sport and anti-doping programmes. We welcome the initiatives aimed at implementing the Kazan Action Plan, including the first conference of African ministers on this subject that was held this past September in Madagascar. We are committed to strengthening the International Convention against Doping in Sport and its bodies in line with the strict observance of the provisions of the UNESCO Constitution. We oppose non-consensus ideas of unjustifiably strengthening the Convention’s monitoring mechanism and creating its sanctions mechanism.
We hope that participants in the current session will signal the approval of the UNESCO-Russia Mendeleyev International Prize for achievements in the area of fundamental research. This will impart a substantial impetus to strengthening the academic component of our Organisation’s mandate. The prize will become a weighty tool for popularising research activities, including those among young people, and for achieving sustainable development goals.
Against the backdrop of more pronounced trends towards the manipulation of public opinion, we hope that UNESCO will promote pluralism and high ethical standards of journalism. It is unacceptable for the Organisation to divide media outlets into good and bad ones and to divide journalists into various categories, including gender-based categories. We hope that the Secretariat will demonstrate its impartiality and without further delay, sign a partner agreement with Sputnik agency under a memorandum signed with RIA Novosti.
I believe that the words of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy are very relevant in the context of the current situation at UNESCO: “Unity benefits people only when this implies the unity of the entire human race in the name of a foundation seen as shared by all human beings, rather than the unity of small or large parts of the human race in the name of limited goals.”