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Message of Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova on the occasion of the Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Translation

Message from Ms Irina Bokova,

Director-General of UNESCO

on the occasion of  Euro-Mediterranean High-Level Conference on Translation delivered by  Ms. Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe

Slovenia, 23 June 2016

Ms. Elisabeth Guigou, President of the Anna Lindh Foundation,

Excellency Mr. Karl Erjavec, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for this invitation.

I am honoured to share a message from the UNESCO Director-General on this occasion.

I welcome all participants to this Conference on “Translation for Dialogue”, and I thank the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and the Euro-Mediterranean University for this important initiative.

The crossroads between Africa, Europe and the Middle East, the Mediterranean is a crucible of rich and unique diversity of peoples, cultures, religions, and languages.

Languages are more than tools for communication – they allow societies and individuals to interact, to share knowledge, to deepen mutual understanding on the basis of dialogue.

This is why UNESCO is so deeply committed to promoting multilingualism, embedding these in our standard setting instruments, including the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the 2003.

Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

Every year, we raise awareness for the power of cultural diversity and multilingualism, through International Mother Language Day, celebrated on 21 February.

These are today some 6,000 spoken languages in the world -- each is unique, and each opens a window for intercultural understanding.

This is the message of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), spearheaded by UNESCO.

This spirit underpins the UNESCO World Atlas of Languages, providing reliable and accurate information on language diversity.

On 8 July, UNESCO will launch a new partnership with TALKMATE, to increase linguistic diversity in cyberspace, promote inclusive ICTs and contribute to social cohesion and sustainability.

We need stronger tools, indicators and statistics, good practices to promote cultural literacy and intercultural competences.

I wish to commend the work of the Anna Lindh Foundation, to support young women and men, to equip them with the skills they need to foster intercultural dialogue.

This is the spirit of the event organized by UNESCO and France, with the participation of the Anna Lindh Foundation, on the Tools of Pluralism, in October 2015, at UNESCO headquarters.

Just a few weeks ago, UNESCO and the Anna Lindh Foundation brought together young emerging leaders from Arab countries in a 5-day training programme, to develop their ability to make their voices heard and to turn their ideas into action – this was hosted at the Jordanian Media Institute, in partnership with the British Council and the UNESCO NET-MED project, Networks of Mediterranean Youth, funded by the EU.

I see this as one of the main challenges of globalization today – and the heart of UNESCO's mandate – for heritage, education, information and knowledge-sharing – to celebrate the cultural diversity that broadens our horizons and respect the human rights that unite us.

Translation is essential in all this – to build bridges of dialogue, to deepen understanding for peace.

We must do more to support translation especially across and around the Mediterranean, where the need for dialogue and mutual understanding has never been so high.

In the words of Salman Rushdie:

It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.

This is the essence of translation.

Allowing cultures to communicate – enriching all of us together.

I wish you an excellent conference and look forward to its results.