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Arabic language key to preserving heritage: UNESCO
File - UNESCO Bulgarian general director Irina Bokova gives a speech on October 4, 2013 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, after being re-elected to a second term. (AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU)
File - UNESCO Bulgarian general director Irina Bokova gives a speech on October 4, 2013 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, after being re-elected to a second term. (AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU)
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BEIRUT: The Director-General of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Irina Bokova stressed Monday the importance of maintaining linguistic diversity to preserve cultural heritage.

Bokova’s remarks were made in a message published on the agency’s website to mark World Arabic Language Day, which is observed on Dec. 18. The day was established in 2010 “to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of [UNESCO’s] official working languages.”

It coincides with the date on which the General Assembly approved Arabic as an official U.N. language in 1973. It is for this reason that the international day to celebrate the language is held on Dec. 18.

“World Arabic Language Day is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the immense contribution of the Arabic language to universal culture and to renew our commitment to multilingualism. Linguistic diversity is a key component of cultural diversity. It reflects the wealth of human existence and gives us access to infinite resources so that we may engage in dialogue, learn, develop and live in peace,” Bokova said.

“The Arabic language bears the treasures of ancient Islamic wisdom and the voice of poets, philosophers and scientists who placed the strength and beauty of the language at the service of humanity,” she added.

This year, UNESCO is emphasizing the particular the role played by the media to reinforce the use of Arabic, Bokova said in her message.

“The media are a key agent of public discourse, and UNESCO is committed to supporting the Arab media as forces of dialogue, information and citizenship. We should strengthen training for journalists and support for media development so as to ensure that Arabic is heard and read in the public arena,” Bokova said.

“The Arabic language and the possibilities it offers can help the citizens of this globalized world to live together in their diversity,” she added.

“Arabic bears the identities and values of 422 million individuals in the world and of 1.5 billion Muslims who use it for their daily prayers. It drives the reinforcement of the values we share. With this in mind, UNESCO supports the International Council for the Arabic Language, whose role is essential in connecting the Arabic-language cultures and cultures of other languages across the world.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 17, 2013, on page 4.
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