UNESCO is currently undergoing a major revamp designed to turn it into an efficient and mobile tool for promoting global development. But the process has been hampered by the United States’ decision to suspend funding for UNESCO after it voted to admit Palestine as a member state. Eleonora Mitrofanova:
"That was indeed a serious blow. But like any crisis, it made us more aware of the need to focus harder and more consciously on our reform. Lots of problems have accumulated. The reform is not just about staff cuts and structural changes but also about making UNESCO more mobile and more sustainable. The agency was initially conceived as an intellectual body to respond to challenges. But life has changed. UNESCO has lots of regional offices throughout the world. To be of greater use to the countries in which they operate, these ‘field’ outposts need to be strengthened. Frankly speaking, I am optimistic about the future. I think that common sense will prevail in the U.S. and that it will eventually realize the ever-growing significance of UNESCO in the face of the global humanitarian crisis, the crisis of morals and ideology, and lots of others."
Africa and gender equality are UNESCO’s priorities. But a lot of attention is being paid to early tsunami warning programs, the conservation of bio-species and preservation of world heritage. There are 25 world heritage sites in Russia now, but there may be more soon. Eleonora Mitrofanova:
"The Bulgar archeological park and the Sviyazhsk Island in Tatarstan may be added to the list next year. These are the nearest nominees. And there are 18 more in the waiting line. But it’s a complicated issue. We need to weigh all ‘pros’ and ‘contras’ before we decide to include some site or another into the world heritage because that implies that certain land management or business or other restrictions will have to be imposed."
Unfortunately, even the world heritage status does not guarantee the safety of cultural monuments. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American tanks smashed the remnants of ancient Babylon. In Afghanistan, Taliban militants destroyed a statue of Buddha dating to the 5th century A.D. In Mali, Islamist rebels burnt a library of unique manuscripts. And though UNESCO is helpless against such monstrous barbarism, what it can and must do is to blow the whistle about the menaces threatening ancient cultural treasures by openly speaking about them, and that’s one of the roles of UNESCO, Eleonora Mitrofanova said.
In today’s turbulent and crisis times, UNESCO is needed more than ever, the organization’s envoy to Russia Eleonora Mitrofanova said in an exclusive interview with the VoR.
The organization is especially needed in conflict-torn regions like Africa where historical sites are under the threat of destruction.
The diplomat added that UNESCO saw certain troubles itself due to cuts of US funding but Russia helped a lot providing money to restore Orthodox Churches in Kosovo.
In 2013, another two Russian sites will be added to the World Heritage list – the town of Bolgar and the island of Sviyazhsk.