by H.E. Ms Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrafanova,
Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO
Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO
Mr President of the General Conference,
Distinguished representatives of the Members States of UNESCO,
Directors-General of previous mandates,
Members of the UNESCO Secretariat,
Dear colleagues and friends,
Today, as we celebrate the sixty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of this Organization, I am delighted to see that each one of us and the international community as a whole remain more committed than ever to its lofty principles and ideals. I am proud to belong to the great UNESCO family that together we all form. Every day, new partners come to join it. Numerous innovative projects strengthen and diversify its day-to-day activities. All of this serves to make its scope and influence more tangible in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to continue my address by describing an episode I recall from my work at UNESCO. Once, as part of the programme of one of my working visits, I was lucky enough to go to a middle-level school where, quite naturally, the children and I engaged in a conversation about education. They asked a great many questions, and we discussed the contribution and purpose of education. Why is it necessary and important to study? What is life like after one’s education has been completed? Who is responsible for spreading education, and how do they do it? Is education and access to it the same for all children and adults in the world? During the discussion, I asked whether any of the children knew about, or had heard of UNESCO. The children’s frank replies were all similar – none of them knew practically anything about the Organization. Later on, in a conversation with the teaching staff it also turned out that although they knew of UNESCO by name, what they actually knew of its role and tasks, and educational and cultural programmes, was not entirely clear or comprehensible. I see that here we have to redouble our efforts in our collective endeavour to elucidate UNESCO’s activity thoroughly. After all, the Organization has tremendous potential, resting, in part, on the unique achievements, of international scale, of the past years. UNESCO has a cherished mission, established by its founders on the ruins of the Second World War – to foster peace and prosperity by means of education, science, culture and information. Over the years, the flame of this mission has neither become extinguished nor grown duller, but it is flickering under the pressure of the new challenges of today’s world. The priceless experience of peace-building accumulated over the preceding decades is with time becoming less accessible to the broad public. The task of the Organization is once again to become closer and more “familiar”, ensconcing itself firmly into what is associated in people’s minds with progress, sound development and peaceful coexistence among cultures, among individuals, and between people and nature.
Accordingly, as Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO, I am pleased to take advantage of the celebration of the Organization’s sixty-fifth anniversary to express the hope that we, the Member States, may seize this outstanding opportunity afforded us by history to reappraise UNESCO’s activity, in particular not only up to 2015 but far beyond.
We all have children, and we would all like our children, and the friends of our children, and the children of our friends and family, the world’s future generations, to grow up and live in the best, most humane and harmonious world. For that to happen, we need to teach them how to build such a world. This Organization was born 65 years ago and has fully demonstrated its capability. But today, drawing on its rich cumulative experience, and constantly adapting its unique approach to the realities of today’s world, UNESCO is called upon to demonstrate more clearly than ever its universal proselytic role in favour of peace in the minds of men and women.
What does UNESCO mean today? UNESCO means international standard-setting. It means education for all. It means cultural diversity and biodiversity. It means the memory of the world. It means cooperation among nations, consensus and democratic principles. It means the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which has given dozens of countries access to invaluable information about the world’s oceans, and saved them vast sums of money. It means the world’s cultural and natural heritage, the world’s intangible heritage, attracting tourists and hence financial resources to various countries. All of this constitutes the heritage of humanity and we are obliged to conserve that heritage appropriately. A person’s maturity does not consist in knowing a great deal, but in knowing how to use that knowledge properly. Our Organization’s maturity consists in disseminating among broad sections of the population and transmitting to the younger generations its valuable experience, accumulated data and unique information. The primordial aim of UNESCO is the fight to build peace, to combat illiteracy, poverty, racism and violence, and to conserve the heritage of humanity, the environment, cultural dialogue, ethics and morality. This is a vast and painstaking endeavour.
In today’s world a renewed understanding is taking shape of our obligations with respect to humanism and human rights. It is gratifying that at the forefront of this commitment is UNESCO, with the Director-General at its head – the first woman ever to hold this prestigious post. This – as I see it – cannot fail to increase our optimism both with respect to the reform of UNESCO and review of its capacity to respond to new global challenges, and concerning the mobilization of the concomitant intellectual and financial resources.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now, on behalf of Members of the Executive Board and on my own behalf, I should like to pay a deeply respectful tribute to the founders of our Organization whose visionary ambitions have to continue to guide us further. I should like to honour the work of all Presidents of the General Conference and all my predecessors in the office of the Chairperson of the Executive Board; to all past and present Board Members and numerous UNESCO partners, goodwill ambassadors for their energy which influenced the work of our Organization. I should also like to express our collective gratitude to dedicated UNESCO staff without exception, starting by all former Directors-General of UNESCO, and particularly to the three present among us today, under whose leadership UNESCO went from strength to strength, often in the face of huge odds. I should further like to thank France and the city of Paris for offering such a priceless site for UNESCO’s Headquarters; as well as all countries where UNESCO national and regional offices are hosted. I should not omit to encourage the current Director-General who has to carry on this noble and complex duty of advancing international security through education, the sciences, culture and communication. It will obviously call for the pursuit of the ongoing transformation of the existing mechanisms for international cooperation, including UNESCO. To continue to serve human development, we will follow her career at the head of the Organization with legitimate exigency but also with all needed support.
In conclusion, I should like to pay tribute to the work of billions of those unknown women and men who are dedicated to UNESCO’s ideals for the better future. And I offer my sincerest hope and wish that UNESCO’s mission is continued and intensified long into the future, which we wish will be a peaceful and prosperous one for us all, for our countries and for our peoples.
Thank you for your attention.