“Cultural Diversity: Building Bridges to Lasting Peace”

From 6 to 10 September 2011, UNESCO Director-General visited the Russian Federation for participation in the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum and meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Yaroslavl Forum brought together renowned public figures from across the world, including former Heads of States, Ministers, Nobel Prize laureates and scholars, to explore the theme of “Modern State in an Age of Social Diversity.”

In Moscow, the Director-General took part in an International Conference at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts on the theme of the “Humanist Foundations of Art.” The Conference was organized by Zurab Tsereteli, President of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

On 7 September 2011, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, took part in the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum.

The Yaroslavl Forum brings together renowned public figures from across the world, including former Heads of States, Ministers, Nobel Prize laureates and scholars, to explore the theme of “the contemporary state in an age of social diversity.”

The Director-General spoke at the 1st Session of the Forum on 7 September on the subject of “Cultural Diversity: Building Bridges to lasting Peace”.

The session was moderated by Alison Smale from the International Herald Tribune and Vyacheslav Nikonov from Moscow State University. The discussion also included Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, Former President of Indonesia, Immanuel Wallerstein, Professor at Yale University, Valery Zorkin, Chairman of Russian Constitutional Court, and other speakers from the United Kingdom, France, Korea, Israel, Egypt along with renowned experts and public figures from Russia. Discussants explored the reality of multiculturalism today and its implications for public policy.

Irina Bokova made a powerful appeal for more cultural literacy today, saying “it is no longer enough to tolerate, we must live together and create new common ground around shared values.”

On the same day, the Director-General had the opportunity to visit the historical centre of the millenary city of Yaroslavl, inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. She also gave an interview with ‘Russia Today’ television broadcaster where she spoke about the issue of cultural heritage in conflict situations as well as illicit traffic of cultural goods.

In the setting of the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova held a bilateral meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, on 8 September 2011. They discussed the depth of Russian-UNESCO cooperation and the importance of taking these ever further in order to respond to rising global challenges.

Before a packed room of world renowned scholars and high-level officials from across the world, Irina Bokova spoke about ‘Supporting Cultural Diversity in a Globalized World’ at the Plenary Session of the Yaroslavl Global Policy Forum. Her speech followed comprehensive interventions by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Turkish President Abdullah Gül.

The Director-General raised the dangers arising from global trends. “The fabric of society is quickly torn,” she said, “and long to mend.”

In a context of rapid and profound change, Irina Bokova underlined the importance of the UNESCO universal declaration on cultural diversity, whose tenth anniversary we celebrate this year. The declaration provides principles for understanding and managing diversity and for making the most of it for peace and security, as well as for solidarity, growth and development.

“Cultural diversity is a reality for our societies,” noted the Director-General, “it must also be a policy, one that unfolds in the context of democracy and pluralism.”

Other speakers during the Plenary Session of the Forum included the 2008 Nobel Prize winner in economics Paul Krugman, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the Polish American scholar and statesman, Zbigniew Brzezinski.