Linguistic diversity is a mirror of cultural richness and imperative for inclusivity in education and society

New York: On the occasion of the International Mother Language Day 2021, UN Member states stressed the role of multilingualism in building more inclusive and peaceful societies and education systems.


The annual celebration, organized by the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Jordan, Lithuania and New Zealand along with the United Nations and UNESCO, highlighted the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies and leaving no one behind.


The virtual celebration convened this year under the theme “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society” brought together high-level officials, UN ambassadors and senior UN representatives. The panel moderated by H.E. Ms. Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, features addresses and messages by the President of the UN General Assembly H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio, UN Under-Secretary-General Melissa Fleming and UN Coordinator for Multilingualism and Under-Secretary-General Movses Abelian, among others


Joining on behalf of UNESCO, Marie Paule Roudil, UNESCO Representative to the United Nations introduced the video message by Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General. UNESCO Chief recalled that idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh, and 2021 celebration is of particular significance as it coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the independence hero Bangabandhu, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who significantly contributed to the recognition of Bengali.


In her remarks, the Director-General called to ensure the vitality of languages outside of school, and in particular on the Internet, which excludes 98% of all languages. In this framework, Ms. Azoulay highlighted the Translate a Story launched by UNESCO initiative last November, during the pandemic. As part of this project, more than 6,000 books have been translated into over 100 languages, including Awadhi in India, Balinese in Indonesia and Venda in Zimbabwe. The campaign aims to enrich the Global Digital Library, which offers free access to thousands of books, manuscripts, pictures and films from across the world.


Throughout the discussion, participants emphasised reaffirmed importance of the multilingual education in building more peaceful and resilient societies and fighting intolerance, and the need to ensure inclusive quality education, especially in the context of recovery from COVID-19. Numerous delegations brought attention to the need to protect linguistic diversity and indigenous languages in particular, also referring to the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), which places multilingualism at the heart of indigenous peoples’ development.


Highlighting the crucial role of languages in preserving cultural diversity, the celebration also featured multilingual cultural performances by the UN Camber Music Society, Asian University of Women and the UN International School.