Serbia in UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO, https://en.unesco.org/) is a specialised UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation, established in 1945. It aims to achieve intellectual and moral solidarity of the human race, as an instrument for building permanent peace. In its 75-year long history, UNESCO has been supporting the development of and the accessibility to quality education, facilitating scientific and intellectual cooperation, protecting cultural heritage and promoting intercultural understanding, ensuring freedom of expression, protection and preservation of the environment, and highlighting humane values of today’s world. UNESCO fosters the implementation of policies which contribute to a sustainable social, environmental and economic development.
The Republic of Serbia has been a Member State of UNESCO since 20 December 2000. In UNESCO’s pioneering days, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) had been its Member State since 31 March 1950, when it established its first national commission for UNESCO. The Republic of Serbia actively participates in UNESCO’s work, staying committed to the principles of pluralism, depoliticisation, cultural diversity, tolerance and dialogue, as reflected in its continued actions as a member of both the UNESCO Executive Board (under the 2019−2023 mandate) and the Board’s sub-body — the Executive Board Bureau.
The Commission of the Republic of Serbia for UNESCO was formed in 2007. The Commission is an advisory body of the Government for areas within the purview of UNESCO, and its establishment is envisaged in the UNESCO Constitution. Since 2015, Prof. Dr. Goran Milašinović has been its President.
The Republic of Serbia supports global priorities and programme activities in the main areas within the purview of UNESCO: education, science, culture, information and communications, which are also connected to the topics from the UN agenda, such as sustainable development and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. It is a signatory to all the relevant conventions of which UNESCO is the depository, and, with a diversified approach to cooperation, it participates in numerous initiatives of international and intergovernmental programmes, such as the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP), the International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP), the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the Information for All Programme (IFAP), etc.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, visited the Republic of Serbia on 12−13 September 2019, to attend the International Advisory Meeting on media and information literacy in Belgrade, which had been jointly organised by the relevant institutions of Serbia and UNESCO.
The protection of Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija is of special importance to the Republic of Serbia. There are 458 immovable cultural goods in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, of which 61 are exceptionally valuable to Serbia. The 1,300 churches and monasteries in Kosovo and Metohija are first-rate cultural heritage of the Serbian people. What sets these monuments of culture apart from others is that they are living monuments — religious service is conducted in them, they have owners and their own clergy — which makes their protection complex. As a member of UNESCO, the Republic of Serbia speaks against the increasingly frequent, politically motivated attempts to rewrite history and appropriate Serbia’s cultural heritage. After the 2004 March Pogrom, the first International Donors Conference for the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Kosovo and Metohija was convened under the auspices of UNESCO in 2005. The Council of Europe, the European Union and other international organisations participated in the reconstruction of monuments, following a specific programme proposed by UNESCO. By signing the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Serbia has accepted the obligation to ensure that world heritage in its territory is protected, including the four monuments in Kosovo and Metohija which were added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2006.
In recognition of UNESCO’s noble mission, the Republic of Serbia will continue to advocate against any politicisation or creation of any new divides within UNESCO itself. At the 38th session of the General Conference of UNESCO in 2015, the Draft Resolution on the admission of the so-called Republic of Kosovo to UNESCO was not adopted. This was the first time in UNESCO’s history that an application for membership was rejected, and it was also the first time that UNESCO considered a proposal that a part of the territory of its Member State, administered by the UN, be admitted to UNESCO's full membership.
Cultural goods and elements in the Republic of Serbia under UNESCO's protection
• UNESCO’s World Heritage List, a list of most valuable goods of world cultural and natural heritage, includes: Stari Ras and Sopoćani (1979), Studenica Monastery (1986), Gamzigrad−Romuliana, Palace of Galerius (2007), and Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards (registered for Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia, in 2016). In January 2020, Serbia, together with a group of European countries, signed a nomination of Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, which is currently being evaluated. Other nominations are under preparation.
• Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Serbia) — Dečani Monastery (2004), Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, Gračanica Monastery and the Church of Bogorodica Ljeviška (2006) have been on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 2006. During 2020, the Republic of Serbia addressed the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, on multiple occasions, with respect to the works on the international main road Dečani–Plav, in the vicinity of the Dečani Monastery.
• Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity includes the following three elements: Slava (2014), Kolo — traditional folk dance (2017), Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle (2018) and Zlakusa pottery making, hand-wheel pottery making in the village of Zlakusa (2020).
• Memory of the World, a list of protected documentary heritage, includes the Nikola Tesla's Archive (2004), the Miroslav Gospel (2005), and Telegram of Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia — ultimatum to Serbia which triggered World War I (2015).
• Man and Biosphere (MAB) includes the Golija―Studenica Biosphere Reserve (2002) and the Bačko Podunavlje Biosphere Reserve (2017).
• UNESCO Global Geopark registry includes the Đerdap Geopark (2020).
• In October 2019, the City of Vranje became a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a creative city of music.
• There are two Category-2 centres under the auspices of UNESCO in Serbia: Water for Sustainable Development and Adaptation to Climate Change (WSDAC) at the Jaroslav Černi Water Institute (2013), and the International Research and Training Centre for Urban Water Drainage (IRCTUD) at the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Belgrade (1989).
• UNESCO Chairs Programme and the UNITWIN Programme in Serbia include three Chairs: one of each at the University of Arts in Belgrade (Studies of Interculturalism, Arts and Cultural Management and Mediation in the Balkans), the University of Novi Sad (Entrepreneurial Studies), and the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the University of Belgrade (Water for Ecologically Sustainable Development).