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United Nations Relations

UPF-Russia Honors UN Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures

Moscow, Russia - About 95 people gathered for a conference on "Russia towards the UN International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures" that was held in Moscow’s National Hotel Dec. 21, 2013. Scholars, government officials and NGO leaders proposed ways to work together during the coming Year of Culture declared by the Russian Federation in a framework of promoting a culture of volunteerism, family culture and a culture of peace. The event was sponsored by UPF and the Women’s Federation for World Peace-Russia.

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At the beginning of the program there was a short video presentation on activities of UPF. Then the Secretary General of the UPF-Russia, Maria Nazarova, read the Address of the First Deputy Chairperson of the Committee on Culture of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Federal Assembly, E.G. Drapeko, to the initiators and participants of the conference. Referring to the recent statement of President Vladimir Putin, she emphasized the relevance of 2014 as the Year of Culture in Russia. She stressed the importance of access to cultural and spiritual roots, where the family is the foundation for traditional values, lasting peace and harmony of civilizations, the primary and most important unit of society, a tool for achieving reconciliation and harmony. She also stressed the importance of intercultural dialogue in the development of humanitarian cooperation. Competence in conducting intercultural dialogues, according to E. G. Drapeko, is an important instrument of national diplomacy that often becomes a decisive factor in prevention and resolution of conflicts, even on the global level. She commended the important role of UPF in creating such a dialogue in the nation.

Welcoming words to the participants of the conference were offered by Yakov Z. Mesenzhnik, President of the International Academy of Science and Business Integration at Lomonosov Order University, Honored Worker of Science, doctor of technical sciences, professor and winner of national and international awards in the fields of science, health, education and culture. He emphasized that science without a moral basis can bring a lot of harm to humanity, so along with the development of science it is important to think about raising the cultural and moral levels.

The first keynote speaker was Igor Filkevich, member of the Coordinating Council of the State Dumas of the Federal Assembly, member of the Advisory Council in the Russian Federation government, Director of the Institute for International Cooperation and Integration of the International University in Moscow, doctor of economic sciences and professor. He spoke on "Features of convergence of civilizations in the framework of the Eurasian economic space." He stressed that Russia's policy is aimed at a rapprochement of cultures and discussed its economic component. He also said that the economic aspect must surely be accompanied by social and cultural aspects. Further, he cited the outcome of economic cooperation in the Customs Association in 2012: the volume of mutual trade between the members of the Customs Association was 67.8 billion US dollars. Compared to the previous year, its volume has increased by 7.5%. The next task is to create the Eurasian Economic Association which would be able to streamline the following key areas: customs tariff and non-tariff regulation, competition, energy, industrial and agricultural policies, mutual trade in services and investment, labor migration, and the financial market. Undoubtedly, creation of a Eurasian Economic Association will facilitate the process of rapprochement of cultures on the continent.

Galina Zhukova, Vice Rector for continuing education and professional development at the Russian State Social University, Honored Scientist of Russia, winner of the governmental award in the field of education, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences and professor, spoke about the Russian State Social University’s experience of educating young people of different nationalities. She said that they decided to use the experience of the Soviet Union in working with a multinational community and organized national clubs. In these clubs, students get the opportunity to share about folk traditions, and the initiators of the events are students themselves, with the administration of the university being invited as guests. People tell about their countries, shoot films about the nature of their native lands and share cultural features. Galina Zhukova also said that for many years the university has been a proud host of UPF’s “Mister and Miss University" project. She invited UPF to take advantage of the university premises to carry out its peacemaking programs.

The next speaker was Sergei Kuchynski, assistant professor at the International Cultural Cooperation Department of the Moscow State University for Culture and Arts, Presidium member at the Council of the Peoples’ of Russia Assembly, Ph.D. and Honored Worker of Culture. He stressed that for several years UPF has been consistently working to raise public awareness about ideas of peace. He spoke about the importance of interaction between government, NGOs and businesses in shaping a successful national policy. International and intercultural relations have a strong impact on economics and the general social situation in the country. Today in Russia, according to statistics, more than 11 million migrant workers live in Russia, affecting the labor market. Using cheap labor inhibits the development of high-tech industries. In Russia, internal migration (from the southern regions of the country into big cities) is very intensive. Society is not yet ready to integrate migrants, and the migrants do not seek to adapt to society. This leads to increasing xenophobia. According to polls, 29% - 47% of Russians have a negative attitude towards migrants, with 63% of respondents considering the cultural factor to be the main reason. Thus, it is very important to increase intercultural dialogue because it has a strong impact on economic and social development. The speaker also noted the important role of the state in this process but, citing President Vladimir Putin, he emphasized the role of the local NGOs, because federal initiatives do not always reach the local level. Sergei Kuchynski concluded that intercultural dialogue should include the participation of government, NGOs and businesses.

Naila Zinganshina, Chairperson of the Association of Muslim Women in Russia, began her speech with the phrase: "We all want goodness," stressing the importance of peacemaking initiatives. She spoke about various cultural projects initiated by the Association of Muslim Women in Russia. As the Chairperson of the Association of Muslim Designers in Russia, she shared about contests and concerts organized by the organization, and how she admired the beauty of Russian folk costumes. Now they are trying to design beautiful everyday clothes in the national style. Another program she described seeks to strengthen and preserve the family. She stressed that marriage will be strong if it is based on a combination of feelings and reason. Various cultural projects, in her opinion, are also important because they deter people from extremist ideas and teach them to multiply what is good.

The chairperson of the All-Russia public organization "Women's Congress," member of the Writers' Association and the Association of Journalists of Russia, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at the Institute of Social Sciences, associate professor and member of the State Duma of the first convocation, Tatyana Chertoritskaya, spoke about importance of a healthy lifestyle. She also stressed the relevance of centering on culture.

Marat Shafigullin, an expert at the International Department of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, shared about programs initiated by the Young Ambassadors for Peace club. He reported on some activities of the Eurasian Club of Young Ambassadors for Peace, among them: "Intercultural Bridge" creating a network of international NGOs, including the UN; and "Goodness without Borders," a program for exchange and professionalization of volunteers. The integration of young people in the academic environment and development of academic skills is promoted in the project "Science +". Young people also participate in simulations of UN bodies. No doubt, in this era of globalization and modern digital technology, one of the most important elements is access to information. Young Ambassadors for Peace have developed a multilingual information portal: Eurasia.net. The rapporteur concluded by quoting Heinrich Heine: "Youth is disinterested in their thoughts and feelings, so it covers the truth most deeply by thought and feeling."

Konstantin Krylov, Secretary General of the UPF-Eurasia, proposed to the participants that they create a coalition of non-governmental organizations in support of the Year of Culture (2014) in Russia and the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022). The basis of the coalition would be projects in three areas: "Culture of volunteerism" for developing the moral and patriotic qualities of the citizens; "Family culture" for supporting the institution of traditional marriage and creating strong families in Russia; and "Culture of Peace" for promoting international cooperation and interreligious dialogue in the nation and friendly relations between Russia and foreign countries. He listed the current UPF projects that can advance the International Decade for Rapprochement of Cultures. Among them are Baltic Dialogue, South Caucasus Peace Initiative, Sports for Peace and City Helping the Village.

The conference was also attended by Chimit-Dorjee Ondar, a Russian Federation deputy; member of the Russian Federation Supreme Council (1990-1993); former member of the Commission of the Council of Nationalities for Repressed and Deported Peoples; member of the Commission of the Council for Budget, Plans, Taxes and Prices; member of the Constitutional Commission; member of the faction "Communists of Russia"; and acting permanent Presidential Representative in the Republic of Tuva (1996-1997). He said that the issue of culture is highly relevant. He said that knowing the history of one’s nation, world and civilization helps one understand why some people are able to succeed. In addition to possessing technical knowledge, one cannot achieve real success without understanding people. He also mentioned that, when in Korea, he wondered why Koreans managed to maintain such high a level of traditional culture. The answer is that they have retained the traditional respect for the elderly, which is a fundamental aspect of morality. Ondar also emphasized that the UPF is based on two fundamental concepts, family and God, as foundations of its peacemaking mission.

After the main program, Ambassador for Peace certificates were presented.

Finally, the conference adopted a declaration calling upon positive-minded groups to join together in advancing the goals and objectives of the Year of Culture in Russia and the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

For the text of the address by E.G. Drapeko, click here.

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