New York

29 April 2016

Secretary-General's Message to International Festival on Language and Culture

I am delighted to greet the International Festival on Language and Culture. I commend the Peace Islands Institute for making this meeting possible and bringing young people from 27 countries together to discuss and celebrate our cultural and linguistic diversity.
Your gathering today takes place as the world embarks on implementing the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development -- a people-centred, planet-friendly blueprint for shared global progress.

Culture has immense power to contribute to the transformative change that is at the heart of the new agenda.  However, transformation should not come at the expense of respect for cultural and linguistic heritage and diversity.

Here at the United Nations, multilingualism allows us to work cooperatively to improve the state of the world.  A United Nations essay contest -- ‘Many Languages, One World’ -- undertaken in partnership with ELS Education Services, invited students to write about the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals in an official United Nations language that is not their mother tongue or medium of educational instruction.  We have received thousands of entries from 165 countries, and the winners will speak at the United Nations in July. The contest reflects our conviction that the effort taken to acquire a language wholly different to one’s own is an investment not only in yourself, but also in global understanding. 

You are part of the largest generation of young people in the world’s history, with wide-ranging opportunities to connect and engage. Wherever you live or whatever your chosen pursuit, the world needs you to show allegiance to the wider common good. I look forward to your global citizenship and urge you to keep using your passion for culture and languages to build a more compassionate world.