Lessons of UNESCO
Pyotr ISKENDEROV | 15.11.2015 | WORLD / Europe

Lessons of UNESCO

The decision by the 38th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris to reject Albania’s proposal that Kosovo be allowed to join that organization was the first truly landmark defeat for the self-proclaimed government of that region. Despite unprecedented diplomatic efforts by Pristina’s supporters on the eve of the vote, they failed to win a consensus even from the members of NATO and the European Union. Of the 95 votes needed, only 92 were cast in favor of Kosovo’s bid for membership.

As the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized when reporting the results of the ballot, «the UNESCO General Conference has upheld its commitment to the principles of international law, as documented in Security Council Resolution 1244, which remains in force in its entirety». The Foreign Ministry continued, «Kosovo is administered by the United Nations. It cannot be considered a state with a juridical personality, and thus cannot qualify for membership in an international organization».

However, the significance of this vote extends far beyond the issue of Kosovo itself. The breakdown of the voting pattern shows serious disagreement among almost all of the current leading international organizations and institutions, with one key exception being the BRICS countries. That group, which is led by Russia, formed a wall of opposition to the attempts by the supporters of Kosovo’s Albanian separatists to use UNESCO as a platform for Pristina’s gradual infiltration of UN bodies. Serious internal contradictions and substantial opposition to Western pressure are quite visible in organizations such as NATO, the European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Consequently, it is symptomatic that the idea of Kosovo joining UNESCO failed to win the support of not only the EU member states that do not recognize the self-proclaimed republic’s independence, but also, for example, Poland, which has never before been noted for its anti-American démarches (it is no secret that it was Washington that actively lobbied in favor of Kosovo’s bid). Even the heavily pro-Western governments of Moldova and Georgia refused to follow the lead of the Euro-Atlantic faction.

And the voting pattern among the countries of the Muslim world was even more revealing, because their support was simply assumed when Albania submitted Kosovo’s application.  But it seems that Tirana and Pristina’s presumptions were inaccurate, particularly in the case of Morocco, Bahrain (a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia!), and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.  One of the world’s leading financial centers, Singapore, abstained from voting.  And even a recognized Latin American ally of Washington such as Colombia declined to support Kosovo’s reckless bid.

This was a shattering disappointment for the United States and its accomplices, which was evident by the fact that even half an hour after the vote, Britain’s BBC and America’s CNN newscasters apparently could not bring themselves to believe what had happened and had still not published the summary report from Paris either on their live broadcast or their websites. The commentary from the Associated Press declared Kosovo’s defeat «a victory for Russia».

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić called UNESCO’s refusal to extend membership to Kosovo «a great victory» and noted that the vote at the General Conference was proof that Serbia had a lot of friends in the world. But this is more than friendship. There is a growing list of countries in the world that are generally dissatisfied with the current world order that is being imposed on countries and regions by the US and its allies in the Euro-Atlantic bloc. Under that world order, international law is sacrificed for the sake of political expediency, and international organizations (including the UN) are used to legitimize dubious experiments that are often directly at odds with not only common sense, but also the norms of moral and humane behavior.  

The fact is that a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located in Kosovo, including the Serbian Orthodox Dečani Monastery, Gračanica Monastery, Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, and the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš. If Kosovo joined UNESCO, these sites would then fall under the protection of the government in Pristina – an organization that has been directly implicated in the destruction of hundreds of monuments to Serbia’s cultural heritage in Kosovo.

Following his meeting with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, but prior to the vote, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated«Today we discussed the fact that given all the complexities of international life, it’s important to avoid politicizing UNESCO’s work, which is what we’re seeing now in the attempts to allow Kosovo membership in UNESCO, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We spoke about the need to thoroughly support the spirit of compromise as well as consensus-based solutions». And, as was seen in the subsequent debates, his position won the support it needed within that international organization.