International Mother Language Day is an opportunity to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity, and to recognise and protect human rights of minorities and indigenous people, said Fernand de Varennes, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, yesterday.
“Language can also empower people, whereas the absence of education in minority and indigenous languages and political instrumentalization of language by state and non-state actors has been a contributing factor to exclusion, discrimination and even violence,” he said in a statement, in observance of the day.
The day, first announced by Unesco on November 17, 1999, was formally recognised by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a resolution, establishing 2008 as International Year of Languages.
The idea to celebrate the language day was an initiative of Bangladesh, where February 21 is the anniversary of the day when Bengalis fought for recognition of Bangla language in 1952 against the then West Pakistani rulers' imposition of Urdu as state language.
This year, celebrating linguistic diversity becomes even more meaningful with the launch of the International Year of Indigenous Languages by UNGA on February 1.
As part of the celebration of richness and beauty of the world's linguistic tapestry, it's essential to move away from the ideology that societies and states should only have one language, said Fernand de Varennes.