Mr. President of the General Conference,
Mrs. Chairperson of the Executive Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The debates at this session of the UNESCO General Conference prompt me to observe that opinions expressed here are in the broad consonance with the ideas that prevailed in statements by the majority of delegations at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, where I have just come from.
Now the world community is not going through an easy period. Terms like "misunderstanding", "contradictions", "antagonism", "unilateralism", "division" applied to international affairs are more and more often used in the vocabulary of not only journalists and representatives of public organizations, but also state officials. There has been clear manifestation of unwillingness of some states to patiently untie, in common interests, together with partners, morbid Gordian knots of international relations. Weak points, inherent or acquired defects of the United Nations system and of the entire architecture of international organizations have been clearly exposed. However, weak points of human nature, lack of roots of culture of peace, ideals of humanism and appreciation of the highest value and unique nature of our distinctions and our diversity in the hearts and minds of people have become more and more vivid.
I would like to note with satisfaction that in these difficult circumstances UNESCO has manifested enviable staunchness, demonstrating the ability to advance persistently in fulfilling its tasks. Having responded efficiently to new challenges of our time UNESCO has joined with due energy and high professionalism other United Nations agencies in implementing large-scale projects of post-conflict peace-building in Afghanistan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are still hopes for the resumption of the Organization's ambitious programmes in Iraq and the Middle East. Belarus highly appreciates the tireless efforts of UNESCO and of the Director-General himself in post-crisis activities. We believe that the activities of Secretariat structures that deal with crisis situations, in particular in education, should be supported with financial and human resources.
There are signs that the international community has growing confidence in UNESCO, trusting its strength and serious potential. Among them is the decision of Member States to agree for the first time in the last ten years to a real – and significant – increase of the budget ceiling. We should also mention the return of the United States to the UNESCO family that makes it possible to speak rightfully of restoring a truly universal character of the Organization. Belarus is ready for constructive cooperation with the United States for achieving the goals of the UNESCO Constitution.
The positive perception of UNESCO in the world is ensured to a large extent by a quite successful implementation of the reforms within the Organization. The personnel policy of UNESCO has been substantially revised. Computerized systems of the programme and budget management have been introduced. Belarus supports the initiatives of the Director-General in establishing strong contacts with business circles and NGOs. Involving new partners in the activities aimed at achieving UNESCO goals will animate ongoing projects and draw new resources.
Yet, the main partners for UNESCO are and will be governments of Member States. This has been confirmed by the visit to Minsk by Mr. Matsuura, UNESCO’s Director-General. The visit has provided a serious impetus for cooperation between Belarus and UNESCO and has become an important event for the cultural and intellectual communities of the country. The provisions of the joint document signed in Minsk correspond well to the ideas of the UNESCO draft programme for the next biennium thus remaining relevant.
The implementation of the decisions of the World Forum on Education for All is rightfully a priority activity in the UNESCO draft programme. Every region has its own problems. Europe is not an exception. In order to achieve goals set in Dakar, UNESCO activities in education for Europe region will need budgetary allocation of additional human and financial resources.
UNESCO activities in the implementation of the decisions by world summits demonstrate vividly the effectiveness of an interdisciplinary approach, of the Organization's interaction with other United Nations agencies. In this connection I would like to point out the encouraging start of the project for the establishment of ecological networks in Polessie region – a vast forest and wetland territories within Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, which harmoniously combines activities for safeguarding biological diversity with the rational use of fresh water resources. A memorandum of cooperation on this matter has been signed by UNESCO and UNDP. We would appreciate the support of delegations to the draft resolution submitted at this session by Belarus and Ukraine.
We also welcome UNESCO joining other international organizations and some countries of the European Union in the implementation of the CORE (Cooperation for Rehabilitation) Programme. The key elements of the Programme include the quality of education and health of schoolchildren in the areas affected by the aftermath of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.
UNESCO energetic standard-setting activities deserve high appreciation. The draft declaration on human genetic data is a timely document. Our delegation will promote the adoption of the convention on safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage at this session. Of urgent importance is working out an international legal instrument on cultural diversity. We are impressed by the Director-General’s view that the international community should learn to benefit from the positive aspects of the globalization process in order to bring cultural and spiritual distinctions of the nations of the world to the largest audience.
The more significant that the influence of globalization on the world becomes, the more evident becomes the devotion of nations to their cultural heritage. The UNESCO activities in identifying and safeguarding the world heritage is probably the key programme that determines the image of the Organization in today's world. Yet, human and financial resources allocated by UNESCO to these goals for the next biennium including activities in the Central and Eastern European region are not sufficient to meet the actual requirements.
Routine discussion that we have to go through – numerous agenda items, reports and draft resolutions – is comprehensive and important. However, particularly important for us is not to forget the fundamental purpose of UNESCO – to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms. This goal should, in our opinion, become pivotal and an every-day guiding line in the activities of UNESCO and its Member States and it should not be overshadowed by bureaucratic routine.