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UNESCO’S ACTIVITY IN THE FIELD OF CULTURE AND ARTISTRY

Gubaydullina Maria Ilinichina


Student, 1st year of Bachelor degree
Saint Petersburg State University
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Abstract: The article is reviewing the United Nations Educational, Scientific


and Cultural Organization. It provides basic information about this institution and
focuses on its mission with regard to culture and artistry. Official documents of
UNESCO and relevant articles and books are examined to come to conclusions about
the international role of culture and UNESCO's significant assistance in this field.

Key words: UNESCO, culture, art, artistry, UNESCO's World Heritage


mission, Protecting Our Heritage and Fostering Creativity, The Convention
Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, The
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,
International Literacy Day, the ancient city of Aleppo, five years of conflict, Culture
in the Digital Environment, mission.

ДЕЯТЕЛЬНОСТЬ ЮНЕСКО В СФЕРЕ КУЛЬТУРЫ И ТВОРЧЕСТВА

Губайдуллина Мария Ильинична


Студент, 1 курс бакалавриата
Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет
Факультет свободных искусств и наук

Аннотация: Статья посвящена Организации Объединенных Наций по


вопросам образования, науки и культуры (ЮНЕСКО) и сопровождается
ключевой информацией о ее структуре и функционале. В центре внимания
находится деятельность организации в культурной сфере. Данная работа
рассказывает о глобальном значении культуры и творчества и роли ЮНЕСКО в
их сохранении, поддержке и продвижении. В ходе исследования изучены
официальные документы и веб-сайт ЮНЕСКО, а также научные статьи и
книги, посвященные этой тематике.
Ключевые слова: ЮНЕСКО, культура, искусство, творчество, Всемирное
наследие ЮНЕСКО, миссии ЮНЕСКО в области культуры, старый город
Алеппо, цифровая культура.

In this article I am going to review the United Nations Educational, Scientific


and Cultural Organization, researching the basic information about this institution
and focusing on its mission with regard to culture and artistry. I will examine official
documents of UNESCO and consider academic articles which I might find useful for
elaborating on this topic.
First of all, it is important to mention the functions and aims of UNESCO. “The
purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security by promoting
collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order
to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights
and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without
distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations”
[1], – it is stated in the Constitution of UNESCO. Therefore, the Organization in
practice deals with cultural issues, in particular, within the framework of the United
Nations.
Secondly, it would be useful to clarify the structure of the organization and to
state some facts on the subject of its history, referring to the Organization’s website,
the section “Introducing UNESCO” [2]. UNESCO is a UN specialised agency. It was
founded in 1945 as a successor of the League of Nations’ International Committee on
Intellectual Cooperation. Currently UNESCO is governed by the UN General
Conference. It also has more than 320 partners in the nongovernmental,
intergovernmental, and private sector. The UNESCO members are selected by the
Executive Board which appoints the Director-General, who is a UNESCO's chief
administrator. UNESCO sits upon the United Nations Sustainable Development
Group.
Moreover, today UNESCO has a wide range of significant functions in five
program areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and
communication and information. According to the article [3], combining various
official data from the UNESCO website, it is possible to say that the organization
supports research in comparative education, provides expertise and fosters
partnerships to strengthen national educational leadership and the capacity of
countries to offer quality education for everyone, issues public statements to educate
the public, promotes events such as International Literacy Day [4], founds and funds
projects like Migration Museums Initiative [5], and fulfills great missions as the
world-wide known UNESCO's World Heritage mission [6].
Concerning the Organization's activities, it is important to focus on the ones
related to culture. UNESCO’s slogan in this regard is “protecting heritage and
fostering creativity”. On the same web-page as the motto’s one the following
meaningful explanatory text is published: “UNESCO is convinced that no
development can be sustainable without a strong culture component… To ensure that
culture takes it rightful place in development strategies and processes, UNESCO has
adopted a three-pronged approach: it spearheads worldwide advocacy for culture and
development, while engaging with the international community to set clear policies
and legal frameworks and working on the ground to support governments and local
stakeholders to safeguard heritage, strengthen creative industries and encourage
cultural pluralism” [7]. Thus, UNESCO’s contribution to the preservation and
development of culture is meant to be international and diverse. My main interest and
motivation for choosing this topic for my article coincide with the Organization’s
reasons to deal with this field. Consequently, specific examples from the activities of
UNESCO and those to whom it helps should be analyzed.
The first aspect worthy of consideration is UNESCO's World Heritage mission
which deals with the first form of relationship with culture. According to the
Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
adopted in 1972 [8], UNESCO encourages the identification, protection and
preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of
outstanding value to humanity. It has a World Heritage List which consists of 1121
properties (869 cultural properties) in 167 states parties. The official Organization’s
website informs that UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to encourage countries to
sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and
cultural heritage; encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within
their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List; encourage States
Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of
conservation of their World Heritage sites; help States Parties safeguard World
Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training;
provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger; support
States Parties' public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation;
encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural
and natural heritage; and encourage international cooperation in the conservation of
our world's cultural and natural heritage [6]. This list proves the invaluable
contribution of UNESCO to the protection of world cultural legacy. Indeed, without
respect for the past and knowledge about it, we cannot speak of present creativity and
the future of culture and artistry as a whole.
Furthermore, some world heritage values are currently in danger and UNESCO
is trying to recover them. For example, in the case of the ancient city Aleppo, which
was added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger [9] in 2013, UNESCO is
leading international efforts to protect and restore cultural legacy: “518 properties,
including the Citadel and the city’s Great Mosque (Omayyad Mosque), some of the
most celebrated edifices in the city whose origins go back to the 2nd millennium
BCE” [10], that have suffered during years of armed conflict in the Syrian Arab
Republic.
The book “Five Years of Conflict: The State of Cultural Heritage in the Ancient
City of Aleppo” [11] is dedicated to this issue. The writing recapitulates that more
than 10 percent of the historic buildings of Aleppo have been destroyed and more
than half of the buildings assessed showed severe to moderate damage. The book
itself offers a firm technical basis for the planning of restoration and rehabilitation of
the ancient city Aleppo. UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto
Ottone R., said in this regard: “Culture and cultural heritage are powerful catalysts in
overcoming the challenges of recovery and reconciliation for cities devastated by
armed conflict… Inclusive dialogue, respect for cultural diversity and a sense of
community ownership, helps cities recover from the trauma of war and secure a
lasting peace” [10]. I personally would support this viewpoint because, in my
opinion, culture is much above temporary conflicts. Cultural values are important for
the population of the entire planet, because they underlie reasonable behavior and
spiritual uplift.
Another UNESCO’s cultural aspect to be regarded is Diversity of Cultural
Expressions. The article on the official website of this UNESCO active direction
states: “The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural
Expressions is a legally-binding international agreement that ensures artists, cultural
professionals, practitioners and citizens worldwide can create, produce, disseminate
and enjoy a broad range of cultural goods, services and activities, including their
own. Recognizing that culture can no longer be just a by-product of development, but
rather the mainspring for sustainable development, the Convention ushers in a new
international framework for the governance and management of culture by
encouraging the introduction of cultural policies and measures that nurture creativity,
provide access for creators to participate in domestic and international marketplaces
where their artistic works/expressions can be recognized and compensated and ensure
these expressions are accessible to the public at large; recognising and optimising the
overall contribution of the cultural industries to economic and social development,
particularly in developing countries; integrating culture into sustainable development
strategies and national development policies; promoting international cooperation to
facilitate the mobility of artists as well as the flow of cultural goods and services,
especially those from the South” [12]. In this regard, UNESCO is aiming to create a
safe environment for creativity all around the world, as well as to make culture and
creativity one of the driving forces of the economy, and as a result - future
civilization. The Convention promotes the value of creativity and its goal is to make
it realizable.
Within the framework of Diversity of Cultural Expressions there is the so-called
Policy and Research Series, through which UNESCO “seeks to contribute to
Information sharing and transparency on the diversity of cultural expressions and
related themes”. The main intention is “not only to supplement the information
provided by the Parties themselves, thereby contributing to the overall monitoring of
the Convention in specific areas such as trade, digital or artistic freedom, but also to
offer recommendations to facilitate informed policy-making processes in the
Convention’s different areas of application”. I find it important that this project unites
different countries and their cultures.
For example, in his research, Octavio Kulesz examines the impact of digital
technologies on the diversity of cultural expressions in Spain and Spanish-speaking
countries in Latin America, paying particular attention to the book, music and film
industries. He investigates “the impact of digital technologies on the diversity of the
cultural expressions in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America
(hereinafter “Latin America“), paying particular attention to the book, music and film
industries. Focused on five countries: Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and
Spain” [13, p. 7]. O. Kulesz admits that “within UNESCO, close attention is being
paid to this issue under the framework of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and
Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (hereinafter the 2005
Convention). The fact is that although the 2005 Convention does not explicitly
mention the question of digital – since it only alludes, more generally, to
“information and communication technologies” or “new technologies” – the principle
of technological neutrality as set out in Article 4.1 makes it clear that its legal
framework must apply to any environment – including the digital one” [13, p. 11].
This is an informative research paper that touches upon contemporary issues of new
artistry of a certain cultural (national/linguistic) field. Therefore, due to UNESCO it
is possible nowadays to consider such local but important issues in a written form,
which further becomes published and replicated all over the world.
In my personal view, what UNESCO has done and what it is doing now is an
irreplaceable contribution to the life of our modern world, because there is no
civilization without culture. Without creation human life is incomplete. The natural
right of all people to freedom of expression, speech and thought in any form of
creativity should be upheld. Artistic approach, fantasy, invention are exactly what
distinguishes people from other living beings. Thankfully, UNESCO has these values
in its philosophy and actions.

References

1. Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural


Organization. London, 1945. From UNESCO Basic Texts, Paris, revised
2020 edition. [Available online. Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000372956/PDF/372956eng.p
df.multi.
2. UNESCO in brief - Mission and Mandate. UNESCO Website.
[Available online. Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://en.unesco.org/about-us/introducing-unesco.
3. UNESCO. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
[Available online. Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO#cite_note-4.
4. International Literacy Day. UNESCO. [Available online. Access:
25.08.2021] URL: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/literacyday.
5. Expert Meeting on Migration Museums. Italian National Commission
for UNESCO. 2006. Rome, Italy. [Available online. Access:
25.08.2021] URL:
http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/SHS/pdf/Fin
al-Report-Migration-Museums.pdf.
6. UNESCO's World Heritage mission. [Available online. Access:
25.08.2021] URL: https://whc.unesco.org/en/about/.
7. Protecting Our Heritage and Fostering Creativity. UNESCO. [Available
online. Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://en.unesco.org/themes/protecting-our-heritage-and-fostering-
creativity.
8. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and
Natural Heritage. UNESCO. [Available online. Access: 25.08.2021]
URL: https://whc.unesco.org/archive/convention-en.pdf.
9. List of World Heritage in Danger. UNESCO. [Available online. Access:
25.08.2021] URL: https://whc.unesco.org/en/danger/.
10. Five Years of Conflict: The State of Cultural Heritage in the Ancient
City of Aleppo. UNESCO. [Available online. Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/946/.
11. Seth Nikhil. Five years of conflict: the state of cultural heritage in the
Ancient City of Aleppo; A comprehensive multi-temporal satellite
imagery-based damage analysis for the Ancient City of Aleppo.
UNESCO. 2018. [Available online. Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265826.
12. The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of
Cultural Expressions. UNESCO. [Available online. Access: 25.08.2021]
URL: https://en.unesco.org/creativity/convention/about.
13. Kulesz Octavio. Culture in the Digital Environment: Assessing impact in
Latin America and Spain. UNESCO. Paris, 2017. [Available online.
Access: 25.08.2021] URL:
https://en.unesco.org/creativity/sites/creativity/files/dce-policyresearch-
book2-en-web.pdf.
© M. I. Gubaydullina, 2021

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