“Our joint efforts are now a rescue mission for invaluable artifacts of human civilization,” said Rostyslav Karandieiev during the conference in Vilnius

In Vilnius, the two-day International Conference “Towards the  Recovery of the Cultural Sector of Ukraine” is taking place, initiated by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his meeting with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in Ukraine.

Watch the media library

Photographer: Domas Rimeika

Prior to the event, a press conference was held where representatives from UNESCO, Lithuania, and Ukraine outlined the key areas of work for the conference.

“russia is waging a war, one of its goals is to erase the identity of the Ukrainian people. This is evidenced by numerous crimes against cultural heritage and the Ukrainian language – the destruction of monuments, distortion of historical memory, appropriation of the names of our poets and artists, and the theft of cultural valuables,” emphasized the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, in his video address to the conference participants.

The Head of Government also stressed the urgent need to create legal conditions for the possibility of excluding the russian federation from UNESCO and its governing, convention, and working bodies for systematic violations of the Charter and principles of UNESCO.

“The shared history and values connect Ukraine and Lithuania. Lithuania stands steadfastly in solidarity with Ukraine and fully supports all its efforts aimed at preserving cultural heritage. Let this conference be a catalyst for action. I urge all of you to engage in constructive exchange of experiences and cooperation in finding innovative solutions that will ensure the restoration and flourishing of Ukrainian culture. Through joint efforts and unwavering dedication, we can and must protect Ukraine’s cultural wealth for future generations. Together we can and must ensure that Ukrainian culture continues to inspire and enrich the world,” noted the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė.

“Culture cannot be postponed until after the war. While acknowledging our losses, we must ensure conservation work begins now. We have specific proposals for each site. Another challenge is human capital. Culture is made by people, and we are losing them today. Some have changed professions, left the country, some are at the front, and some have not come into culture. Our key challenge is being prepared for restoration work after the war ends. This involves training professional restorers,” said Acting Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine Rostyslav Karandieiev.

He noted that since February 24, 2022, Russia has destroyed or damaged 1,080 cultural heritage sites in 18 regions. 2,003 cultural centers have been damaged, and about 4,000 cultural institutions have been closed. The cultural sector has also experienced a significant loss of human capital.

“Our joint efforts are now a rescue mission for invaluable artifacts of human civilization. Our spirit and culture cannot be destroyed by any enemy, as we are united in our goal – to protect the world heritage and pass it on to future generations,” added Rostyslav Karandieiev.

The Acting Minister also emphasized the need to establish a permanent UNESCO office in Ukraine, as the issue of heritage restoration will remain relevant for many years.

“It is very important for the international community to agree and give proper place to the restoration of Ukraine’s cultural sector in the overall process of stabilization, rebuilding, and reconstruction of the country. We also need to discuss possible tools and involve international donors. We aim to mobilize the attention and efforts of the international community for the restoration of Ukraine’s cultural sector, devastated by russian aggression. Culture is already recognized as a foundation for sustainable development, and there is no doubt about its importance in ensuring the resilience of society,” noted Lithuanian Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys.

“Since the beginning of the full-scale war, we have been trying to support Ukraine and coordinate all issues and assistance. Working with UNESCO partners, we have been developing an action plan that would operate according to standards, as in Kyiv and Odesa. A cultural hub was opened in Lviv to ensure this sector continues. We are also trying to prevent the illegal sale of cultural heritage objects. We are integrating aspects of cultural education in schools so that they remain cultural ambassadors during wartime. Artists, especially women, receive support to ensure their voices are not forgotten but heard louder despite the war. Libraries, villages, and art collectives are witnesses to the war and its damage, and the impact on them has been very deep,” said UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone Ramírez at the beginning of the conference.

He noted that UNESCO has already provided resources for the restoration of cultural spaces, including 31 museums, 25 monuments, 15 libraries, and 1 archive.

The event is attended by about 200 participants from various countries supporting Ukraine’s recovery – government representatives, ministers of culture, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, and experts. The conference will conclude with an updated document, the “Action Plan for Culture in Ukraine,” prepared by UNESCO and international experts, and a final document prepared by the Ministries of Culture of Lithuania and Ukraine – “Vilnius Call to Action for the Recovery of Ukraine’s Cultural Sector.”

The results of the Vilnius Conference will be presented at the International Conference on Ukraine Recovery in Berlin on June 11-12 this year.

You may be interested

U-Nation “Innovations to Rebuild Ukraine”: Opportunities for Rebuilding Ukraine Discussed in Berlin

U-Nation “Innovations to Rebuild Ukraine”: Opportunities for Rebuilding Ukraine Discussed in Berlin

“Journalists matter”: in the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, a video was launched on the Council of Europe Safety of Journalists Campaign

“Journalists matter”: in the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, a video was launched on the Council of Europe Safety of Journalists Campaign