– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

22 February 2021

Excellencies, dear colleagues,

I am delighted to join you today at this event to mark International Mother Language Day. I would like to pay particular thanks to Her Excellency, Ms. Rabab Fatima, and the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh for organising this meeting and for Bangladesh’s leadership in promoting multilingualism.

Also, it was very nice to start the day with the wonderful song sung by these charming girls. It made our day!

Excellencies, dear colleagues,

The languages we speak are incredibly important to us all. They allow us to communicate, to develop, to educate, to build relationships. They are formed through our experiences, culture and memories. They help to shape our very identities and to preserve and protect those identities.  The over 6000 languages spoken around the world demonstrate the rich cultural diversity of our planet.

The theme for this year, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society,” recognises that multilingualism and languages support inclusion and the focus of the Sustainable Development Goals on leaving no one behind.  As Member States build back better from the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, multilingualism and inclusion must be part of education efforts. Today, only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems. Less than a hundred are used in the digital world.

The United Nations General Assembly recognises the importance of multilingualism. In 2017, we called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”.

And multilingualism is also important within the General Assembly itself. Our communication tools, including the languages we use, are essential to reach the public and those we serve.

Excellencies, dear colleagues,

Our collective diversity in language and culture points to the richness and complexity of our societies.  We must support those who wish to speak their mother tongue. We must continue to celebrate and nurture this important asset, so we leave no one behind in our pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to wish a happy International Mother Language Day! Or, as we say in Turkish, Uluslararası Anadil Günü kutlu olsun!