UNESCO Director-General and President Vladimir Putin discuss protection of cultural heritage in conflict zones in Iraq and Syria

On 14 December 2015, Ms. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, and H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, jointly opened the IV Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum, devoted to the 70th anniversary of UNESCO. The Forum was the largest cultural event to mark the seven decades of the Organization’s role and contribution worldwide in support of culture and heritage.

“We are here to celebrate the power of culture”, stated the Director-General in her keynote address. 

“When culture is under attack and when extremists seek to destroy the common heritage of humanity, we need to respond to ignorance, hatred, and violence with more culture, with more knowledge”, she said.

The strengthening of international efforts for the protection of humanity’s cultural heritage was discussed during the Director-General’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin following the plenary session. 

Ms Bokova underlined the importance of the protection of cultural heritage and the prevention of illicit trafficking of cultural objects, especially during armed conflicts.

The Director-General thanked the Russian Federation for its support that resulted in the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 2199 on the Financing of Extremism. By highlighting the implementation measures taken by UNESCO in Iraq and Syria, 

Ms Bokova noted that “through this resolution, the international community recognized the links between the protection of culture, international security and humanitarian concerns”.

President Putin reiterated his government’s strong support for the protection of humanity’s heritage from barbaric destructions. 

“We have a close and effective cooperation with UNESCO and the protection and promotion of culture and cultural heritage is one of our key priorities”, he stated. 

“We have always supported and intend to further support your important work”, said Mr Putin.

The Director-General and President Putin went on to highlight the excellent level of on-going cooperation between UNESCO and the Russian Federation in all areas of the Organization’s mandate. 

“Russia’s hosting of the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board meeting is another testimony of the country’s commitment to the international intellectual cooperation”, stated the Director-General.

The Saint Petersburg Cultural Forum provided an excellent platform to discuss the role of culture as a development enabler in the Agenda 2030 and to share common commitment to make the most of culture as force for innovation, dialogue and social inclusion. 

As Irina Bokova stated in the Forum, “culture is the driving force behind all development, the cornerstone for peace and mutual respect, and the force for human dignity. To unleash this potential, we need stronger policies, adequate laws and regulations”.

During her stay in Saint Petersburg, the Director-General addressed the 4th National Congress of the UNESCO Chairs in the Russian Federation. 

She also inaugurated the memorial devoted the 25th anniversary of the inscription of the “Historical Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Monuments” on the World Heritage List.