International Mother Language Day 2019

2019-02-21
International Mother Language Day 2019

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues makes a statement to commemorate International Mother Language Day 2019.

Image: UNESCO

International Mother Language Day has been observed since 2000. In conjunction with International Mother Language Day 2019, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, issued a statement on the importance of this day for minorities.

"Language is for many one of the essential markers at the core of their identity. It is also a most uniquely human trait, the essential link to our past, the main bond for our cultures, and the essential tool to communicate and share knowledge, memory and history.

The International Mother Language Day on 21 February is observed every year since February 2000 and celebrates all of this and more. This year, celebrating linguistic diversity becomes even more meaningful with the launch on 1 February 2019 by the United Nations’ General Assembly of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The event is not simply a "cultural" event, since language issues also involve important human rights matters for both minorities and indigenous peoples beyond linguistic and cultural matters. Language can also empower people, whereas the absence of education in minority and indigenous languages and the political instrumentalization of language by state and non-state actors has been a contributing factor to exclusion, discrimination and even violence.

As part of the celebration of the richness and beauty of the world’s linguistic tapestry, it is essential to move away from the ideology that societies and states should only have one language to the exclusion of all others, and in particular when such a perception and practice clashes with the linguistic rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. International Mother Language Day is thus an opportunity to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity – and to recognise and protect all the human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples relating to language.

Language and education will also be the focus of the 12th Session of the United Nations’ Forum on Minority Issues to take place in Geneva in November 2019, and of the upcoming regional forums to be organised under my mandate as the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues."

More information about International Mother Language Day, as well as a statement by the Director-General of UNESCO, can be found on UNESCO's website.