Minister Dačić's address at the 42nd session of the General Conference of UNESCO
Below is the full text of his speech at the General Conference.
Esteemed President of the General Conference,
Distinguished Chairperson of the Executive Board,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to address you today on behalf of the Republic of Serbia.
At the outset, I would like to congratulate the esteemed President of the General Conference, dear Simona, on her election to this important and responsible post. I am convinced that Ms. Miculescu will perform her duty with dedication and success.
I also take this opportunity to thank the previous President of the General Conference, Mr. Santiago Irazabal Mourao, for his devoted and dedicated work in the performance of this high office, in the past two years, and to wish him success in his future endeavours.
The general concept of the UNESCO member states that, through strengthening cooperation in the fields of culture, education, science, information and communications, a significant step forward in terms of peacekeeping can be achieved, is especially significant in the current circumstance of global turmoil. Our cooperation today, more than ever before, paves the way towards accepting diversity and strengthening mutual understanding.
The Republic of Serbia, committed to the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, always stands ready to contribute, through a constructive approach, reaching of an agreement and in close coordination with other member states, to the most efficient work of the Organization and the realization of its noble mission.
In an extremely difficult hour on the global level, full of challenges, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Serbia to UNESCO Tamara Rastovac Siamashvili, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Executive Board, invested efforts, in an effective and pragmatic manner, towards finding compromise solution for all disputed issues in UNESCO in the course of the last two years with the aim of strengthening the role of this Organizations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the cooperation and support you have given her during her chairing.
Wishing to continue our activities in this Organization on the same lines, the Republic of Serbia submitted candidacy for the Executive Board of UNESCO, in the elections that will be held at the current session of the General Conference. The Republic of Serbia expects support from the member states, confident that it will justify your trust this time as well.
We will continue to actively contribute to the work of this particularly important Organization, providing support to all important processes necessary for its efficient operation. In this context, the Republic of Serbia upholds the adoption of the budget of the Organization for the period 2024-2025 as well as the Program and Budget for the period 2026-2029.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite the progress we have made in certain spheres of UNESCO's activities, unfortunately, we are still facing numerous challenges, which require the investment of additional efforts, in order to ensure a more stable and secure future for all. We therefore need a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all the challenges we are currently facing, which require joint action, solidarity and more effective multilateralism.
I wish to emphasize that the priorities of the Republic of Serbia largely coincide with the priorities and goals of UNESCO.
We believe that gender equality is at the core of the development of every society. The Republic of Serbia has adopted a set of documents which guarantee full gender equality in all segments of social life, and indicate the importance and necessity of continuous strengthening of the position of women. We continue to take steps, in accordance with the Gender Equality Strategy and the Law on Gender Equality which is harmonized with the legal acquis of the European Union and all international obligations.
I am especially glad that this year we marked the jubilee that UNESCO also included in its calendar - 150 years since the birth of Nadežda Petrović, one of the pioneers of respect for the principle of gender equality in Serbia and our region. This great artist, fighter for women's rights, altruist, patriot and war nurse occupies a special place in the history of Serbian culture and the cultural heritage of our country. As Nadežda Petrović herself said, artists must be great teachers not only of their own but of all peoples, and their views must be wider than the limits of their palettes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Access to inclusive and good quality education is not only a basic human right, but the key to the progress of every society and every individual. Therefore, I would like to underline that primary and secondary education in the Republic of Serbia is free, as well as higher education for talented and students in poor financial situations. Also, the contribution of the Republic of Serbia is reflected in the inclusion of migrants and internally displaced persons in the process of exercising their rights to education. National minorities are enabled to study in their mother tongue, and special attention in our educational system is devoted to marginalized groups, especially members of the Roma population.
Ignorance breeds prejudice, and prejudice breeds conflict. Education, as a pillar of sustainable development, must be in the service of preventing any form of extremism which threatens not only education but also cultural diversity and gender equality.
We firmly believe that knowledge and science play one of the key roles in accelerating activities towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Therefore, I am proud that, at the proposal of the Republic of Serbia and a group of countries ("like minded countries"), the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution by which the period from 2024 to 2033 is proclaimed as the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development. We must use this decade to put all scientific capacities in the function of development and empowerment of each individual.
We also believe that the focus of UNESCO must be the fight for freedom of thought and expression, especially in the media, with concern for the safety of journalists as an inseparable part of that freedom.
In accordance with Agenda 2030 and the needs of African countries, the Republic of Serbia, in the implementation of Priority Africa, is engaged both globally and nationally, contributing to the African World Heritage Fund.
Also, I would like to emphasize that through the "World in Serbia" program, which provides annual scholarships to around two hundred students from developing countries around the world, Serbia records exceptional results and demonstrates its permanent determination to foster and develop cooperation with African countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With its conventions and various programs in the field of culture, UNESCO undoubtedly contributes both to bringing and bonding our peoples closer together, as well as to the preservation of cultural heritage of universal value. This is evidenced by the recent entry of the Archives of the First Summit of Non-Aligned Countries into the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in which countries from as many as three continents participated.
UNESCO proudly preserves 1073 world cultural and natural heritage sites, which are registered in 167 member states, and which represent an area of 10 million square kilometers.
How did the Republic of Serbia, as a small country in the southeast of Europe, contribute to these impressive data? You will allow me to cite only two examples, which illustrate our cross-border and regional cooperation in a good way.
The medieval tombstones Stećci, a joint regional nomination of the Republic of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and Montenegro, prove that cultural heritage knows no borders. Stećci, as part of the common tradition and culture of the peoples living in this area, have become part of the world heritage.
Did you know that the Mura-Drava-Danube pentalateral biosphere reserve is popularly called the European Amazon, due to its exceptional properties and its expanse of 930,000 hectares, with a length of 700 kilometers?
Such UNESCO nominations, in which the Republic of Serbia is one of the key participants, provide an immeasurable contribution to regional cooperation, stability and a firm determination for peace on its way to the European Union.
One of our priority tasks is to raise awareness of the increasing threat to world heritage, due to various factors such as climate change, armed conflicts and the frequent absence of the application of adequate measures recommended by normative instruments in this area.
The pinnacle of Serbian medieval art is seen in the most representative way in four Serbian monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija, inscribed on the World Heritage List: Dečani and Gračanica Monastery, The Patriarchate of Peć and Our Lady of Ljeviš Church. The Serbian cultural and historical heritage in Kosovo and Metohija, comprising 1,300 holy sites, is of immeasurable importance, not only when it comes to the national identity of Serbia but also because it represents part of the valuable European and world heritage.
Unfortunately, that legacy is constantly exposed to attempts at renaming it, the revision of undeniable historical facts, and physical desecration. International forces, tasked with protecting Serbian and world cultural heritage, are deployed only on certain cultural sites. I believe that you are well aware of the tragic facts when it comes to our cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija and the permanent threat to its protection.
Therefore, I would like to emphasize that the Republic of Serbia will continue to advocate against the politicization of cultural heritage and other issues within the competence of this Organization, as well as against causing new divisions, tension and confrontation within UNESCO itself. We believe that our common task is to strive to reduce the tensions and divisions that marked the past period.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What we need, especially in times of division, turmoil and conflict in the world, is greater understanding and a willingness to compromise. That is why, our cooperation within UNESCO is equally important both for the present and generations to come. Serbia stands ready to continue to actively contribute to this important Organization, and I hope also through the continuation of our work in the Executive Board of UNESCO.