Today much is said about the fact that international organizations, including the UN, are losing their value as a tool for resolving international problems. Is UNESCO losing its influence as an organization with the United Nations in an environment where some countries ignore important UN Security Council resolutions?
Eleonora Mitrofanova: The UN is a universal organization, which has no analogues in the world. The UN has a global charter – every country has the right to vote. The UN is at the center for solving the problems facing humanity. Given the fact that the organization was created in the era of the bipolar world and still operates on the charter approved at that time, there is lots of talk about the need for reform. Certainly, any organization from time to time needs to be reformed. The reforming of the UN is necessary today, primarily to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to the rapidly changing situation in the world, whether there are regional conflicts, natural disasters, man-made disasters or economic turmoil.
UNESCO was created simultaneously with the UN as an organization designed to bring peace into people's cultural lives, science and education. Since that time, its mission has not changed, and its value has not diminished.
It is necessary to understand that today there is a struggle for the formation of a new world order. There are attempts to impose a pyramidal order, where at the top its leadership is represented by the United States and its allies, and everyone else must follow their orders and rules. This often leads to ignoring the views of the majority in the UN. But such approaches are a dead end and lead to heightened tension and instability in the world. Most countries do not agree with such an approach. It is in international organizations that a common approach is formed, where the agenda for the future is formulated. As of now there is no alternative to the UN.
What are the most important areas the Russian Federation is working in with UNESCO in 2014? What is the program for 2015?
Eleonora Mitrofanova: Today UNESCO is the largest intergovernmental forum for cooperation in the intellectual sphere. The mandate and sphere of competence of the global humanitarian organization is very wide.
UNESCO has responsibility for the most important issues of our time in areas of sustainable development, education, science, culture, communication and information. Behind each of these areas lies a wide field of activity and many derivatives and objectives. Today, member countries of UNESCO are forced to give top priority to looking for an effective use of the resources of the organization in terms of its growing importance, while, at the same time, it is experiencing a significant reduction of its financial resources.
The Permanent Mission of Russia to UNESCO as a public body for external relations of the Russian Federation represents the Russian Federation in this international organization. We were entrusted with the implementation of a unified political line of the Russian Federation within UNESCO as well as coordination in the activities of the organization of federal executive bodies, executive bodies of subjects of the Russian Federation, the Russian governmental agencies, organizations and enterprises, and their delegations and expert groups. Russian delegations and groups of experts, working with the Russian Permanent Mission to UNESCO, provide important assistance in many forms.
The Russian Permanent Mission operates in cooperation with the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, which is the governmental coordinating body ensuring the cooperation with UNESCO by the Government of the Russian Federation, federal executive bodies, other bodies and organizations, as well as scientists and experts.
In UNESCO’s interactions with the world community, Goodwill Ambassadors, Envoys and Artists for Peace actively represent themselves among prominent representatives of civil society. Russian UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors are the President of the Russian Academy of Arts Zurab Tsereteli, President of the World Armenian Congress A.A. Abramyan and Federation Council member V.N. Ignatenko. The title of UNESCO Artist for Peace was awarded to V.A. Gergiyev, V.T. Spivakov and S.N. Markarov. Three-time Olympic champion V.A. Fetisov is a "UNESCO Champion for Sport."
International humanitarian activities under the auspices of UNESCO still remain attractive for domestic celebrities. Recently, under our proposal of special rank, UNESCO made awards to our wonderful singer Alsou and the social activist and poet A.V. Ochirova. In April 2014, noting special achievements in art education, UNESCO named the outstanding Russian pianist D.L. Matsuev a Goodwill Ambassador.
Speaking about our day-to-day interaction with UNESCO, Russia consistently participates in all the major programs and projects of the organization. At the same time we are not talking only about finding benefits in favor of our own development. Participation in UNESCO programs is clear evidence of the maturity of a particular state, the understanding of one’s own role in today's international exchanges, being aware of taking responsibility for the fate of the world, its peoples, first and foremost, and issues of war and peace. In my opinion, if we talk about a general civilizing role and the position of one of the world's leading powers, Russia's position is recognized by UNESCO at the appropriate level. Our credibility is still high.
Here are some of the most revealing examples of our cooperation.
Education has been considered to be the main focus of international cooperation in UNESCO for many years. Many Russian universities and research centers work under the auspices of UNESCO. More than 50 UNESCO departments, specializing in specific research within the mandate of the Organization, have been created in Russian universities. About 300 educational institutions in our country have the status of UNESCO Associated Schools.
Two of these goals are included in the list of UN Millennium Development Goals: ensuring universal free and compulsory primary education and gender equality in primary and secondary schools. The Russian Federation, jointly with UNESCO, is taking measures to achieve these two UN-approved Millennium Development Goals.
An important part of our cooperation with UNESCO is in the spheres of fundamental and applied sciences, technologies, natural and social sciences.
UNESCO is working with a broad range of UN agencies, organizations and NGOs in the fields of science and technology. One of its main partners, the International Council for Science, unites science academies and academic councils with the International Council for Engineering and Technology (ICET).
Water is a key priority for UNESCO. The International Hydrological Program provides scientific data, professional technical training and consulting on strategic direction in order to use this essential resource efficiently, fairly and without harming the environment. The International Hydrological Program also seeks to prevent conflicts arising from the lack of water at national and international levels.
Researchers at various UN agencies and institutions are coordinated by an Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It constantly monitors the ocean with the goal of improving the quality of weather forecasting and tsunami and hurricane warning systems. The Commission also participates in the Global Ocean Observing System, which helps to better understand the effects of ocean currents on climate change by using data collected from buoys, ships and satellites.
Russian scientists are among the most prominent and powerful participants of UNESCO’s scientific programs. There is already an ongoing discussion about holding the next meeting of the internationally prestigious Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary General on Russian soil.
Perhaps the most well-known "flagship" program of the UNESCO is the World Heritage Site program.
UNESCO has established a comprehensive system of protection for unique monuments of universal value.
The UNESCO World Heritage List includes 27 Russian locations (including Chersonese in Crimea), 17 cultural and 10 natural monuments. Three Russian objects are among those chosen that are adjacent to other countries: the Curonian Spit (Lithuania), Uvs Nuur Basin (Mongolia) and the Struve Geodetic Arc (Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Estonia).
A waiting list for inclusion into the World Heritage program includes 27 more Russian objects. Among the latest, in particular, the Kenozerye National Park (Arkhangelsk region) and a memorial complex dedicated "To the Heroes of the Stalingrad Battle" at Mamayev Hill have been proposed.
In the context of international assistance, the Russian Federation has launched an initiative for the conservation of World Heritage sites in Kosovo (Serbia) through an agreement signed in UNESCO in 2010. In connection with this agreement, the Russian Government has made a voluntary contribution of $2 million to UNESCO.
The list of objects to be restored with the help of Russia was determined in consultation with UNESCO and the Serbian delegation, include four Orthodox architectural ensembles in the territory of Kosovo (Serbia). All repair and restoration work at these sites has been carefully evaluated by international specialists.
The main outcome of this year is the successful introduction of the next Russian cultural monument in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. As a result of complex multi-year research by international experts, UNESCO recognized the unique historical and archaeological complex of the ancient city of Bolgar (Tatarstan), which was visited by UNESCO Director-General I. Bokova in August.
Among our most urgent tasks will be to promote new Russian World Heritage sites and continue conservation on the Russian sites already recognized within the program. Speaking of the latter category, the most important issue is the coordination with UNESCO of planned works on the territory of the Moscow Kremlin, Novodevichy Convent.
Of undoubted importance for us is the safety of journalists within the UNESCO Sector (UNESCO is the main institution on these issues in the UN system). In connection with the situation in Ukraine we are trying to give this topic greater importance. On behalf of UNESCO Director-General I. Bokova a number of statements were made in recent months in connection with those tragic events and the deaths of Russian journalists. We are confident that this very significant humanitarian issue will continue to be recognized by UNESCO in subsequent international meetings and activities.
I must mention the multi-year efforts of the Russian Federation towards the provision of universal access to the sharing and storing of information and knowledge. The most important step in this regard was the international meeting of experts on the web-based conservation and development of languages held in the Paris headquarters of UNESCO in late October as part of the Day of the Khanty-Mansi Okrug — Yugra (KhMAO).
One of the main organizers of the forum was the Russian Federation, which, within the 2012 framework of UNESCO’s intergovernmental program Information for All (IFAP), created a working group on multilingualism chaired by our country.
Since April, the issue of Crimea has appeared. You know that UNESCO has been adopting Ukrainian draft resolutions on issues of its competence — education, freedom of expression and the protection of cultural and historical values on the peninsula.
In order to participate in discussions on this issue with the member countries of the organization, we published, from the rostrum of the international organization, a persuasive argument detailing the real humanitarian situation in Crimea, which many delegations found very interesting.
What anniversaries and activities of UNESCO, held as part of their celebration, caused the most interest? I mean the 200th anniversary of Mikhail Lermontov, the 300th anniversary of the Botanical Institute, the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage?
Eleonora Mitrofanova: You're right, the anniversaries program of UNESCO has a long history (since 1960) and is very popular in the world. Russia has been a longtime and constant participant.
Anniversaries under the auspices of the organization draw the attention of the international community to outstanding events and personalities who have made a unique contribution to the development of world culture and science.
Talking about the past, the celebration of the 300th anniversary in UNESCO of St. Petersburg, the 250th anniversary of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the 1000th anniversary of Kazan and also Yaroslavl, the historical center of which is recognized as a world heritage site, the 50th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin with the participation of many cosmonauts and astronauts, the 100th anniversary of the Pushkin Museum. Pushkin, as well as the 150th anniversary of V.I. Vernadsky immediately comes to mind.
This year, in addition to the anniversaries already mentioned, Russia is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages, located in Moscow (together with Armenia) and the 200th anniversary of the scientist and diplomat, and the first Russian ambassador to Japan I. Goshkevich (together with Belarus and Japan).
Certainly, all the dates are of interest. However, the biggest celebrations will be focused on the anniversary of the Hermitage, which have been in preparation on a large scale for several years. On December 7, the next International Cultural Forum, dedicated to the anniversary of the largest Russian museum will occur in St. Petersburg. The celebration will take place in the Hermitage.
As we expect, UNESCO as an international organization, which has over the years given the Hermitage considerable expert advice, will take part in these events.
In the coming year, we also anticipate a number of significant anniversaries and events. At the suggestion of Russia, UNESCO will celebrate the 2000th anniversary of ancient Derbent in 2015. At the headquarters of the organization with the active support of the Ministry of Culture of Russia, a major exhibition will be held next year on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the first Russian objects to enter the the UNESCO World Heritage Site: "Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments", "Moscow Kremlin and Red Square" and "Kizhi Pogost."
We will continue to keep Sputnik and other Russian media informed of upcoming plans and we invite everyone to attend and participate in the Russian activities within UNESCO.