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World Poetry Day
21 March

UNESCO Director-General's Message 2012

Poetry is one of the highest forms of linguistic and cultural expression. Giving complete creative and verbal freedom, it is an integral part of peoples’ identities and, like music, dance and art, also often helps us to create our own personal identity.

Poetry is also the place where the profound link between cultural diversity and linguistic diversity is forged. The language of poetry, with its sounds, metaphors and grammar, stands as a barrier against the deterioration of the world’s languages and cultures. By exploring the great potential of language, poetic creativity enriches intercultural dialogue, the guarantor of peace.

UNESCO has been celebrating World Poetry Day for the past 12 years. In a constantly evolving world, a world of rapid change and social transformation, poets have a presence alongside civil movements and know how to alert consciences to the world’s injustices as well as encourage appreciation of its beauty. We can also see potential in new technologies and short messages that circulate on social networks, breathing fresh life into poetry, fostering creativity and the sharing of poems and verses that can help us to engage more fully with the world.

For many years, UNESCO has been working to develop instruments and texts that respond to the cultural challenges brought about by globalization. The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are tools which UNESCO uses to encourage the dissemination of the world’s poetic heritage and to stimulate poetic creativity. We must ensure that we keep this vibrant spirit alive and open our eyes to see how poetry can help to bring peoples together. Today, I call on all Member States, our partners from the network of UNESCO Chairs, the UNESCO Associated Schools and civil society to celebrate poetry and ensure that in school textbooks, public places and on the walls of our towns, it is given its rightful place as a central part of our shared cultural vitality.

Irina Bokova

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