The Soviet Union accepts a share of the responsibility for the decision by the United States and Britain to quit the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze said today.
“We do not disclaim our share of the responsibility,” Shevardnadze told delegates of the 158-nation agency during a three-day visit to Paris.
He urged the two countries to rejoin the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, saying everyone should “take into account the lessons of the past in projecting the renaissance of UNESCO.”
Shevardnadze said Moscow helped to pave the way for the two countries to leave because it felt ideas were being imposed on the Soviet Union that it could not accept.
The Soviet Union at the time was in a situation, he said, where “the principle of tolerance toward different ideas was undermined by excessive introduction of ideological dimensions to political approaches.”
The United States, Britain and Singapore left UNESCO in 1984 and 1985 respectively, alleging excessive politicization and financial mismanagement.
In a further acknowledgement of U.S. criticism of UNESCO, Shevardnadze said Moscow would support measures to improve administrative and financial aspects of the agency.
“We are not indifferent to saving of resources, rationalization of structure, bringing the staff policy into line with the real requirements of the UNESCO programs,” he said.
Japan and the Soviet Union are now UNESCO’s biggest contributors after the departure of the United States and Britain, which between them contributed 30% of the agency’s budget.
A new director-general, Federico Mayor of Spain, was elected last year to replace Senegal’s Amadou Mahtar M’Bow, who clashed regularly with the U.S. delegation at UNESCO.
In further criticism of previous Soviet regimes, Shevardnadze said Moscow had been inadmissibly long in ratifying a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention.
The Soviets ratified the convention today.
“To be quite frank, we have been inadmissibly long in joining this convention, which was elaborated with our participation as far back as 1972. The stagnation characteristic of our recent past had adversely affected this sphere too,” Shevardnadze said.