Statement by MFA Tonino Picula at the 32nd UNESCO General Assembly

Mr President of the General Conference,
Madame Chairperson of the Executive Board,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to extend to you Mr President, my delegation’s sincere congratulations on your election, and wish you every success in exercising the tasks of your high office.

I should like to begin with a few words on the reforms that have been introduced in UNESCO. Croatia agrees that these are in line with our attempts to create a stronger organisation which is more responsive to global issues which challenge its original mandate - contributing to peace by promoting co-operation among nations through education, science, culture and communications. After more than fifty years, UNESCO is facing new challenges and its longstanding mission to strengthen respect for universal norms and values has gained new relevance and new dimensions. Thus, it is essential that the Organisation remains open to current trends and constantly seeks to reform itself in order to continue to act in line with best practices internationally. In this respect Croatia encourages UNESCO to build on existing co-operation and establish new collaborations with global organisations, regional organisations, as well as with States and civil society, whose mandates correspond with this Organisation’s vision.

Croatia attaches great importance to UNESCO’s focus on our region within the context of Dialogue among Civilisations. As an active participant in the ongoing stabilisation process and development of good neighbourly relations, Croatia readily promotes co-operation on both on a bilateral basis, as well as within regional forums. To this end, we are grateful to the Director-General for his initiative to hold two important events, firstly in Paris last spring which focused on strengthening of cooperation in South-East Europe and more recently in Ohrid on Dialogue among Civilisations for South-Eastern Europe.

Mr President,

In today’s global world, lives are being shaped by three dominant factors:
- the proliferation of scientific and technological innovations;
- the rapid spread and development of information and communication technologies;
- the rapid process of globalization.
Nothing is more deeply intertwined with these processes than the system of education. Education contributes to individual development, it “opens doors” to a better life in which the individual can play an active and responsible role. A functioning educational system is thus crucial for development of human capital which in turn exerts a positive influence on the overall social and economic development of every country.

In the process of harmonising Croatian legislation with the European Union, Croatia’s educational system is currently undergoing structural and substantive reforms. These are oriented towards achieving better quality within the educational system, ensuring access for all, as well as forging stronger partnerships in the process. The primary goal of the Croatian educational system is to promote creativity, analytical thinking, and appliance of knowledge in order to enhance communication and social cohesion, so as to produce a source of qualified people for today’s demanding labour market.

Mr President,

In the field of natural sciences, the priorities and interests of the Republic of Croatia correspond to UNESCO’s activities in the field of ecology and environmental protection, water, land and biodiversity management strategies, including the revitalisation of small islands for ecological, social and economic sustainability. It should be pointed out here that Croatia has established its own research projects in all these areas. As for social and human sciences, Croatian priorities are closely linked to programmes concerning the promotion of human rights, management of social transformations, as well as, bioethical issues. In the respect of the latter, my delegation would like to congratulate UNESCO in finalising the draft Declaration on Human Genetic Data, the adoption of which is to be discussed during this General Conference.

Overall scientific and technological progress in the Republic of Croatia is viewed as providing a solid foundation for sound decision and policy making in response to the global challenges of sustainable development. To this Croatia endeavours to align its activities in the fields of natural, social and human sciences, together with communication and information technologies closer towards regional and international scientific inter-action. In the context of the latter, Croatia views UNESCO as having a decisive role to play.

Mr President,

The Republic of Croatia is honoured to have its cultural monuments and sites included in the World Heritage List; underpinning the principle that cultural heritage is a key component of identity. At the same time, the establishment of an international standard-setting instrument on cultural diversity will prove a useful tool by which it can promote cooperation and linkages among the various cultures of the world through UNESCO - ultimately leading to the preservation of cultural diversity. Croatia fully supports the tenets laid down in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted at the thirty-first session in 2001. Diversity amongst cultures as a fundamental element of our different identities is quickly becoming a phenomenon in today’s globalized world. Croatia for its part has actively participated in both the International Network on Cultural Diversity and the International Network on Cultural Policies and will be hosting a conference on both networks in Opatija later this month.

Croatia was actively involved in the drafting process of the International Convention on Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Intangible heritage requires our protection, because it in turn can ultimately contribute to sustainable development. To achieve this goal, international cooperation and particularly support for local authorities are crucial.

Having experienced firsthand the vast destruction of Croatian cultural monuments inflicted during the war in the 1990s, Croatia fully supports the adoption of the Declaration on the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage during this General Conference.

Croatia is honoured to play host to the Culturelink, network of networks for research and cooperation in cultural development, established by UNESCO in 1989. Activities with the network to date, have opened new horizons of cooperation, linking continents and states through projects in culture and sustainable development.

In concluding Mr President,

Croatia is fully aware of UNESCO’s comprehensive mandate which can produce significant know-how and bring together valuable pools of knowledge. Focusing on its strengths should bring about consolidation which must be at the centre of our joint efforts so that UNESCO can continue to play a
key role within the UN system – as the leading agency in the areas of education, science, culture and communications. In the same spirit, Croatia also welcomes the ongoing process of UNESCO’s comprehensive reorganisation and the constructive process of decentralisation. This process invites greater focus to be placed on and expand activities promoting regional strategies. Such an approach is of crucial importance not only for its direct contribution to the fostering of co-operation and development between the respective regions, but for its overall impact on the international community.

Thank you.