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Statement by H.E. Mr. Edward NALBANDIAN Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, 37th session of UNESCO General Conference


Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I would like to join the previous speakers in congratulating Mr. Hao Ping, Vice Minister for Education of China on his election as the President of the 37th Session of the UNESCO General Conference and extend our thanks to the outgoing President Ms. Katalin Bogyay.

Mr. President,

Every two years we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution: the pursuit of the ideas of peace and humanity through the education, science and sustainable development, intercultural and interreligious dialogues.

Last year Armenia marked 20th anniversary of its UNESCO membership. Since then Armenia, as a dedicated member, has been increasingly engaged in the Organization’s activities and programs, promoting its principles and values.

Mr. President,

Armenia expresses its support to the initiative of the UN Secretary General “Education first”, in which the UNESCO plays a key role. In this regard it has been both an honor and a responsibility for us to be in the Council of the International Bureau of Education.

We welcome UNESCO’s focus on inclusive social development and intercultural dialogue reflected in its new Mid Term strategy objectives. It is difficult to imagine modern development without international cooperation in the fields of education, science, technology and culture. UNESCO plays a crucial role in promoting such cooperation through global networks, including the UNESCO Chairs and the “Associated schools networks”, in which Armenia is actively involved. We consider the programs mutually beneficial for UNESCO and its member countries and we would encourage enhancement of the programs by further improvement of communication and cooperation with the networks on the ground and better utilization of their potential.

Mr. President,

The past year was memorable for Armenia as Yerevan became the twelfth World Book Capital. Throughout the year Yerevan was a meeting place for several well-known writers, journalists, publishers, librarians and booklovers from all over the world.

This significant event coincided with another major celebration – 500th anniversary of the Armenian book-printing. Armenians were among the first in the world to make use of Guttenberg’s invention and starting from 1512 founded Armenian printing houses around the world. The first Armenian book was printed in Venice in 1512, and the first Armenian printed magazine - in Madras in 1794.

The year-long events presenting Armenia’s rich cultural heritage to the world was truly “crowned” by inscription of over thousand-year-old Armenian epic “David of Sassoun” on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The celebrations of the 300th anniversary of great Armenian poet and musician Sayat-Nova were included in the UNESCO list of anniversaries for 2012-2013. Sayat-Nova made a considerable contribution not only to the Armenian, but also to the cultural heritage of our region.

Inscription of Aram Khachaturian's compositions on the Memory of the World International Register this June was a wonderful tribute to the composer's legacy on the occasion of his 110th anniversary in 2013.

Mr. President,

We highly appreciate UNESCO’s goal of promoting intercultural dialogue, understanding and tolerance in the world.

Since last May Armenia has assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe making fight against xenophobia, hate-speech and intolerance its key priorities.

In an era when the protection and promotion of human rights are considered to be the underpinning concept for the civilized world, intolerance towards the values of civilization belonging to others, damaging or destroying cultural or religious heritage intentionally, consistently, repeatedly, must be condemned with the same resolve and determination as violence against people.

The destruction by Azerbaijanis in Nakhijevan of thousands of delicately carved cross stones by the Armenian masters, dating from the 9th to the 16th centuries, is a vivid manifestation of such crime.

Several thousands of these giant medieval sculptures were bulldozed under the Azerbaijani government’s watchful eyes and this area was turned into a military ground in a government sanctioned operation. The 16th International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) General Assembly resolution regretfully stated with regard to this vandalism: “this heritage that once enjoyed its worthy place among the treasures of the world’s heritage can no longer be transmitted today to future generations.”
Our numerous calls for sending international fact-finding missions to Nakhijevan, as well as attempts by a number of international organizations and countries have been either ignored or rejected by the Azerbaijani side.

Mr. President,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education state that "Education shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups". Taking into consideration UNESCO's unique role in the sphere of education, we call upon the Organization to create within its educational programs some sort of an overview mechanism that will examine and evaluate the textbooks of the member-states, especially history and social sciences textbooks, with a special emphasis on exclusion of racism or xenophobia. The Armenian heritage, culture and history, after lasting continuously for more than thirty centuries are nowadays being distorted and altered in Azerbaijan. In this country the rewriting of its history is continued by means of misappropriation or annihilation of the traces of other cultures on their territory, or even more, by privatizing the cultural heritage of the neighboring nations. A country that appeared on the political map of the world less than a hundred years ago has territorial and cultural claims towards a country and a people the several millenniums’ history of which is recorded from the ancient times.

Mr. President,

Only through coordinated efforts the international community can pursue the ideas of peace and humanity through education, science and sustainable development, intercultural and interreligious dialogues.

Armenia is strongly committed to the ideals and goals of UNESCO and will continue expanding its involvement in the UNESCO initiatives and programs.
Thank you.

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