On 7 December, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, was in the Russian Federation, on the occasion of the opening of the Saint Petersburg 3rd International Cultural Forum dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum.
“This year, we celebrate the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum, and also 60 years of cooperation between UNESCO and the Russian Federation, so it is deeply moving to be here,” said the Director-General, highlighting the strong ties that UNESCO has developed over the decades with both Saint Petersburg and the State Hermitage Museum.
She recalled the Hermitage/UNESCO Project that was launched in 1993. Within the Project’s framework, several initiatives were undertaken in the areas of management, restoration and renovation, conservation and visitor services.
“UNESCO is convinced that culture has a fundamental role to play in building more sustainable strategies and policies for development,” continued the Director-General, highlighting that UNESCO is sparing no effort to ensure that the cultural dimensions are duly integrated into the post-2015 sustainable development agenda to be elaborated by the United Nations Member States.
“Culture means jobs and economic growth, it can also be a bridge for reconciliation and mutual growth,” said Irina Bokova. “Museums have an essential role to play here. They help us understand our past, to shape our future.”
UNESCO has undertaken the elaboration of a new standard setting instrument on the protection and promotion of museums and collections.
The Director-General also took part in the Roundtable on the theme “Cultural policy: innovations and contemporary challenges”, which was held within the frame of the Cultural Forum.
She outlined UNESCO’s global action in the promotion the pivotal role of culture for sustainable development and peace through the recognition and promotion of cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue as well as the protection of culture in all its manifestations.
Denouncing the attacks on culture and the deliberate strategies of cultural cleansing in certain parts of the world, especially in Syria and Iraq, Ms Bokova reiterated UNESCO’s appeal to create protected cultural zones in conflict areas and called on the Russian Federation to support the Organization’s global efforts to integrate cultural issues into the political response to the crisis and to combat the illicit trafficking in cultural properties.
During her stay in St Petersburg, the Director-General met with Mr Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, to discuss the on-going bilateral cooperation in the field of culture as well as new initiatives. Ms Bokova commended the Russian authorities’ initiative to host the International Cultural Forum in St Petersburg and highlighted the role of culture as an enabler and driver of sustainable development, in the elaboration of the post 2015 agenda. She informed the Minister of UNESCO's work for the protection of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq and called the support of the Russian Federation.
Recalling that 2014 was declared the Year of Culture in the Russian Federation, she paid tribute to the government’s engagement in the preservation of cultural and natural heritage and called for strengthening cooperation between UNESCO and the Russian Federation through different partnership modalities.