by H.E. Mr. Goran SVILANOVIC, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, at the 31st Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

Paris, 18 October 2001

Mr. President,

Mr. Director-General, Excellencies

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am addressing you here today for the first time since the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was readmitted to UNESCO, convinced that my country is ready to make full contribution to the principles and purposes on which the Organisation was based. With the assistance of UNESCO, we are all striving to build a world in which the dignity of all Members and peoples, mutual understanding and respect, interaction between their cultural and spiritual values as well as solidarity among them will be the fundamental values marking the 21st century. At the same time, we are aware of the high complexity of the present political relations in the world. Therefore, we believe that science, education and culture could be essential bonds in a multi-faceted cooperation and communications among all states in the world, thus at least fulfilling some of the hopes and aspirations of millions of people.

In this respect, the Yugoslav delegation stands ready to cooperate fully with UNESCO and with other countries in the implementation of the Organisation's programmes. With this in mind, we have presented our candidature for membership of the Executive Board. This is my country's first candidature for a seat in a body within the UN system since it was reintegrated into international organisations. If we get your confidence, we shall seek, in our overall activity, to demonstrate our full commitment to the noble goals that UNESCO stands for.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank Mrs. Sonia Mendietae de Badaroux, President of the UNESCO Executive Board, for the warm words addressed at the opening of the General Conference to my country.

Mr. President,

This General Conference coincides with the efforts the international community is making to prevent and combat terrorism. This time, I should like to reiterate our condemnation of the unprecedented terrorist attacks on the United States of America, to confirm our full support for the anti-terrorism coalition and to express once again our deepest condolences to the Government and people of the United States of America. My Government fully supports the recently adopted UN Security Council resolutions 1368 and 1373 as well as UN General Assembly resolution 56/1. Terrorism poses a threat to international peace and security, and we believe that all states should take measures to bring the perpetrators, instigators and sponsors of such acts of terror to justice. In this context, the role of the United Nations is central. We share the opinion of the Secretary-General who, in his recent statement, said that "the United Nations must provide a framework of shared values and understanding, within which their free and voluntary efforts can interact and reinforce each other instead of getting in each other's way".

Regrettably, terrorists and terrorism are present in the region of South Eastern Europe. In fact, terrorism is closely connected with transnational organized crime, human and drug trafficking, money laundering and other similar crimes. This is seriously affecting the stability of South East Europe as a whole. Evidently, there is a need to enhance coordination and cooperation at the subregional and regional levels in order to face this challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I cannot but use this opportunity to highlight the problems of protection of the cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija province which has been administered by the United Nations since June 1999. Over the last two years more than a hundred places of enormous historic and civilisational values have been destroyed there, despite the clearly worded provisions and a commitment to implement the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of cultural sites in case of a military conflict. There is an urgent need for assistance to prepare a plan of action to protect from further degradation medieval cultural and architectural sites and to rehabilitate them. It is also hoped that UNESCO will soon complete the initiated process and include in its list of world cultural heritage some of the sites in Kosovo and Metohija such as the monasteries Decani and Gracanica.

Not so long ago, UNESCO strongly supported the restoration of the education system in the Albanian language in Kosovo and Metohija. Similarly, we expect UNESCO to help restore the Serbian-language education there, as well as to recognize the need for repairs to schools in numerous Serbian enclaves in Kosovo and Metohija.

Mr. President,

In order to ensure a lasting peace in South-East Europe, it is necessary, in our opinion, to contemplate a regional approach through a reaffirmation of the principles of the Helsinki Charter, namely inviolability of borders, but also through the resolution of substantive issues such as the issue of minorities. Such a political programme needs to be followed by cooperation in science, culture, education and information.

Education for all must be the priority of cooperation among the countries of South-East Europe. It will not resolve problems in the region of its own accord, but it is certainly part of a long-term solution through promotion of democracy and human rights.

By its history, culture and civilisation, the region to which my country belongs has an important place within UNESCO's programmes. It is a region for which UNESCO should devise an even more coherent and systematic strategy. Cooperation among the interested Member States could be improved with the assistance of other international organisations and UNESCO, with a view to developing a unique regional cultural identity based on their close historical and cultural ties. Such a regional dimension, combined with such rich cultural heritage, is connected with the efforts UNESCO is making in the medium term strategy to promote culture and communications in an age of globalization. It is extremely important, therefore, to continue placing emphasis on a dialogue between different civilisations, cultures and religions, especially in the south-eastern part of Europe, i.e. in the Balkans. Yugoslavia stands ready to render its constructive contribution in this regard.

The past decade has completely disintegrated the network of cooperation and infrastructure of scientific cooperation in the region of South Eastern Europe, which has also adversely affected the broader scientific community. Now, this network and infrastructure in the region will have to be repaired and linked with science institutions in Europe and the world in general. This issue will be dealt with more extensively at a special meeting of Ministers of Science and Technology of South-East Europe to be held in a few day's time, when important decisions related to the adoption of an Action Plan of relevance for the development of the region will be considered.

Protection of cultural diversity and promotion of pluralism are not only the subject of UNESCO's long-term work, but that is also an indispensable condition for the development of truly democratic societies where the human rights are guaranteed. The new authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have done a lot in this respect as well. Nevertheless, there is still room for further action. We expect that UNESCO will render its practical assistance in the preservation of specific cultural characteristics and diversity. As a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-confessional country, we uphold the proposed declaration on cultural diversity, which, if adopted at this General Conference, will be the first declaration of this kind on such an important issue.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I express the hope that this General Conference will adopt a significant number of decisions reaffirming and further promoting the activities of UNESCO aimed at addressing many problems within its field of competence. The Yugoslav delegation will act along these lines, wishing to contribute in this way to the successful deliberations at this Conference.

Thank you, Mr. President.