Evelina Rioukhina, UNECE
Du jamais vu: an interview in the form of a dance in the UN Special! How is this possible? This is the story:
It started in Autumn 2000 when a young woman, Valentina Vasilova, from Ekaterinburg, the birth place of Tsarina Ekaterina, in the Urals region of Russia came to the United Nations in Geneva on a three day visit after winning a UN Quiz. She was the guest of the Director-General of UNOG here in Geneva. She was also received by the Executive Secretary of the UNECE. The UN Special published an interview in which she told us all about herself, her activities in the local UNESCO club, and her future plans (see UNS No. 593). Her dreams are now coming true. Valentina is a student in two higher education estabishments in Ekaterinburg: the College of Foreign Languages (English Department, second-year student) and the Ural State University named after M. Gorkiy, in the Department of journalism, specializing in management, marketing, public relations; first-year student).
She continues with her passion collaboration in the youth UNESCO Centre, firmly believing that youth can strengthen their dialogue through their culture, education, common goals. Upon her return from Geneva, she even created her UNESCO club Grifon which has now been running for three years already and where she is a Vice-president. We are really happy for Valentina, especially happy that the visit to Geneva contributed to all this, and we congratulate her on these wonderful achievements. She wrote to us a couple of weeks ago to tell us that a delegation of her colleagues from the Ural-Siberian UNESCO Centre will be in Geneva on a very short visit and asked us to meet with them. We were very pleased to receive three guests: Maria Batrakova, president of the UNESCO Club Grifon from Ekaterinburg, Shafkat Tutaev, Secretary of the Committee on UNESCO of the Republic of Bashkortostan, and Alfira Safiullina, the honoured actress of Bashkortostan, all three representing the Ural-Siberial UNESCO Centre.
We learned that you are here, in Geneva, for a very short visit, not even for an hour, why so short?
We are making a journey through several countries in Europe. We have a few main goals in our mission. The first one is very sad and the most emotional for us a visit to Überlingen, Germany, where we had a meet ing and a press-conference in commemoration of our friends/colleagues who died in the plane crash in July 2002, where we laid a wreath at the site. Many young people died in this crash, including a group of our comrades from our UNESCO Centre from Ufa who were going to Spain to make pre sentations on cultural exchange and youth. So, yesterday was an extremely sad and diffi cult day for us, especially, since we lost our comrades in the full beginning of life, their plans, their careers. We all were shocked to hear about this horrible accident that took away lives of so many young people. We express our deep sor row, and we enormously regret also that young repre sentatives from your UNESCO organisation perished in this crash. You mentioned that they were going to Madrid to participate in some event, what kind of pre sentations were they supposed to make in Madrid? We were very much involved in the UN Year of Dialogue among civilisations, and we consider that this is a very good initiative and that such a dialogue could be a pow erful weapon against war, terrorism, especially nowa days. This dialogue, dialogue between civilizations, dia logue between cultures creates a solid ground for peace and non-violence, and on this platform all youth from all over the world should combine their efforts. After the V World Congress of International Non- governmental Associations, held in Ekaterinburg in July 1999, we decided to launch a special pro gramme called Leader, activist, professional, one of the objectives being to train young people so that they may participate in such a dialogue. It is a pity that we have only a few minutes now, or we would invite you to listen to one of our pupils of this school. She is now with us on an excursion in the Palais, a young schoolgirl; but you would be moved to tears by her presentation and by how she spreads the idea of protecting the cultural heritage of her region and strengthening the cul tural dialogue among youth all over the world. It is difficult to describe, you have to hear it. If only we could find her right now.
We can only ask you a couple more questions, and we know that the bus is already waiting for you. Please, tell us a little bit more about this Leader, activist, professional. Is it a school or an organisation?
To be more precise, this is the programme of action, or action plan, within the Ural-Siberian UNESCO Centre. The Ural-Siberian UNESCO Centre was founded in 1991, with Yuri Borisikhine as President. This Centre involves youth from the Urals region in the UNESCO movement, in different ways. There is an Open International UNESCO school, where conferences are organised every Sunday on the most topical subjects of our time: youth and ecology, youth and information society, education and human dignity, learning the culture of peace, youth and sustainable development, youth and human rights, youth and the information society, etc.
The activities of international organisations are well known to our youth. However, we have the impression that in more than 600 international organisations and NGOs, which are connected with UNESCO or other United Nations bodies, Russia is not visible enough and the Urals region is not represented, or not known at all. That is why we decided, within the Human Resources Centre of UNESCO Metropolis, to launch an international programme Leader, activist, professional, whose purpose is to create a human resources capacity potential in our youth to enable them not only to have a good education and a broad range of knowledge, but also to become real leaders, who can convince and lead others. And if we have people with a sense of conviction, and strong leadership qualities, such people will be able to defend the ideas of culture, education and peace and establish a dialogue of cultures. Such people could represent our region in international organisations and would be able to transmit our ideas. Our programme is a concrete action plan in human resources capacity building covering the region of the Urals.
Is the programme of human resources capacity-building difficult, challenging?
Yes, this is not only a very difficult challenge for us. This is, unfortunately, also a very serious problem almost everywhere in our region. We have very good universities, many talented young people, with a good education in different areas. The problem of our youth is that gifted and well-educated young specialists can- not find jobs in their areas of expertise, i.e. the States investment in education is not very effective. We are facing, unfortunately, unemployment in a sense that a large number of scientists, researchers, people with the highest qualifications cannot properly apply their knowledge. At the same time the region desperately needs experienced and highly qualified specialists with international skills who will be able to solve the problems in the region and to apply the ideas of international organisations, including UNESCO, in the region.
Do you think that your action plan could resolve this human resources management problem and bring a balance to these issues?
Yes, definitely. The programme of action consists of two major parts: one is to use the existing human resource capacities in the interests of the international community, and the other is to work with youth with a view to building new human resources capacities. Of course, we have concrete plans, covering the twenty most important directions for activities, and we work in three priority areas.
What other organisations or big programmes or projects are taking place now in your region?
As we mentioned, in 2001 we established the youth club Grifon where Valentina Vavilova is taking one of the leading roles. Now Maria Batrakova, president of the club, is representing the youth of Ekaterinburg on this visit. The tasks of this club are to provide support to implementation of different programmes in the field of education, science, culture, and also to provide help in job opportunities, economics and other areas. We are involved in protecting our cultural heritage, local arts, and handicrafts, and we would also like to help to protect our cultural and historical treasures, the invaluable Demidov heritage which is an integral part of our culture. We are trying to promote international dialogue between the youth of our region and youth from other parts of the world. For example, Olga Vlasova will present the Ural- Siberian Centre at the European Conference to take place in Strasburg in which 400 youth international leaders will participate. This conference will be devoted to globalisation and youth problems. Olga is one of the youth leaders of the UNESCO movement in the Urals. She will present her project of youth exchange. It is a rather interesting idea. Ten youth leaders from different countries will take part in this project. They will travel around the home countries of each participant. There will be conferences in each country, devoted to globalisation and youth problems.
Coming back to your current visit, what are the other main purposes of this visit? As we understood it, you are in Geneva just passing from one place to another. Where are you going next?
We go next to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. This is of course very important for our centre, we want to see how to communicate better, to strengthen our exchanges, our cooperation. Also, we would like to visit all the places that are listed in the UNESCO cultural and environmental heritage list in Europe, in the countries that we are passing through. Later we will organise lectures for the young generation on the importance of safeguarding this heritage, be it cultural or environmental, for ourselves and for future generations. Fortunately we are travelling by bus, and our route from Überlingen to Paris passes through Switzerland. Knowing that we would cross this country, we asked about the possibility of organizing a visit to the European Headquarters of the United Nations, even though we knew that it might be for less than an hour. It is a big event in our lives to be able to visit the Palais des Nations, centre of peace and a symbol of peace, and to visit the Salle des Assemblées. We have heard so much about that and could only see it on TV.
Does the United Nations in general represent a lot in the eyes of young people in the Urals? And also what message would you like to pass to the people of different nationalities who read our magazine?
Young people in the Urals consider the United Nations as the most important organisation, an organisation that is now the only guarantee of peace in these very alarming times. And of course, one of the main ways to peace is cultural dialogue. This is our second big visit through Europe. During our first official visit to UNESCOs Headquarters in Paris in 2001, 15 people from Ekaterinburg and 30 from Ufa represented the youth of the Urals. A special Conference was organised on Problems of youth where the main accent was on the problem of communication and cooperation of youth of different countries. Also, we started to discuss how we could better show the culture of the peoples of the Urals. The Urals is not only a region that divides Europe and Asia, and represents not only a huge economic potential of the Russian Federation, but this is also a region were many other nationalities (130!) live together. They all have their national features, national peculiarities, different cultures and different languages. You see, even here and now we are people from different countries and cultures, already speaking at least four languages: Russian, English, French, Bashkirian, and we all see that we need interpretation to understand each other. Our delegation is multicultural: Maria, for example, is from Ekaterinburg and represents the Russian population and youth of Russia, and Shafkat and Alfira are from Ufa and represent the population of Bashkortostan, and in our group there are other representatives of the multicultural region of the Urals. Perhaps to be able to be understood when we speak, we need to have interpretation, however there are ways of communicating that are clear despite the differences in language. And then the very unusual part of the interview happened: Shafkat, the Secretary of the Regional Committee of UNESCO, picked up the national instrument kurai and started to play old traditional music, and Alfira, the honoured actress of Bashkortostan, started to dance the national dance, a legend about a young woman-bird who loved work, who loved joy, who loved life. The ordinary UN office turned into a stage on which a miracle was taking place and this miracle was the harmony and grace of gestures expressing happiness, national culture and peace that reached our hearts which needed no any interpretation.