Following the adoption of the Resolution on Aggression against Ukraine by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and in light of the devastating escalation of violence, UNESCO has announced it is deeply concerned by the development of the conflict in Ukraine and is working to assess damage across its spheres of competence – education, culture, heritage and information, and to implement emergency support actions.
The UNGA Resolution reaffirms the paramount importance of the UN Charter and its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, and it demands “that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine.”
This escalating violence – which is resulting in civilian deaths, including children – is totally unacceptable.Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
Audrey Azoulay called for the “protection of Ukrainian cultural heritage, which bears witness to the country’s rich history, and includes its seven World Heritage sites – notably located in Lviv and Kyiv; the cities of Odessa and Kharkiv, members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network; its national archives, some of which feature in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register; and its sites commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust.”
We must safeguard this cultural heritage, as a testimony of the past but also as a vector of peace for the future, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve for future generations.Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
Consistent with its mandate, UNESCO demands the immediate cessation of attacks on civilian facilities, such as schools, universities, memorial sites, cultural and communication infrastructures, and deplores civilian casualties, including students, teachers, artists, scientists and journalists.
Furthermore, the UN Security Council states that UN Member States are to “prevent attacks and threats of attacks against schools and ensure the protection of schools and civilians connected with schools, including children and teachers during armed conflict as well as in post-conflict phases.” UNESCO strongly condemns the attacks against education facilities, with the damaging of at least seven institutions in the past week.
[the international community’s duty] is also to protect the future that educational institutions must be considered sanctuaries.Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
In the field of culture, UNESCO underlines the obligations of international humanitarian law to refrain from inflicting damage to cultural property and condemns all attacks and damage to cultural heritage in all its forms in Ukraine.
In this respect, “UNESCO is gravely concerned with the damages incurred by the city of Kharkiv, UNESCO Creative City for Music, and the historic centre of Chernihiv, on Ukraine’s World Heritage Tentative List. UNESCO deeply regrets reports of damage to the works of the celebrated Ukrainian artist, Maria Primachenko, with whose anniversary the organization was associated in 2009.” UNESCO also condemns the attack that affected the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial, the site of one of the largest mass shootings of Jews during World War II, and calls for the respect of historic sites, whose value for education and remembrance is irreplaceable.
To prevent further attacks, UNESCO is working in close coordination with the Ukrainian authorities to mark, as quickly as possible, key historic monuments and sites across Ukraine with the internationally recognised signal for the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict. Additionally, UNESCO has approached the Ukrainian authorities with a view to organising a meeting with museum directors across the country to help them respond to urgent needs for safeguarding museum collections and cultural property.
In a conflict situation, free and independent media are critical for ensuring civilians have access to potentially life-saving information and debunking disinformation and rumours.UNESCO
In the field of access to information and freedom of expression, UNESCO recalls its previous statement to protect media professionals and associated personnel. It further notes that “media equipment and installations constitute civilian objects and, in this respect, shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals”.
Lastly, UNESCO expresses its concern about the reports of the targeting of media infrastructure, including the shelling of Kyiv’s main television tower on 1 March 2022, with multiple reported fatalities, including at least one media worker, as well as cases of violence against journalists and attempts to restrict access to the Internet.