Irina Bokova: "Respect for cultural diversity is the only way to be universal"

The UNESCO Director-General participated in the opening of the 9th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, held in Reykjavik.

In her opening remarks, Irina Bokova sent a message of strong support in favor of multilingualism and cultural diversity, with emphasis on the importance of mother tongue education to improve the quality of education, and the study of indigenous languages, which contains valuable knowledge about the environment, biodiversity and sustainable development.

The Director-General highlighted the example of the peoples of the Arctic, whose languages ​​describe with great accuracy the different conditions of snow and ice. Better dissemination of their knowledge within the scientific community would lead towards a deeper understanding of the phenomena of melting glaciers and global warming.

Addressing the University of Iceland, the Director-General explained the link between cultural diversity and biodiversity in depth, recalling UNESCO’s advocacy to integrate culture in the agenda for sustainable development

"States are looking for a way to build a sustainable development model, and this model will be sustainable only if it is universal -- if it is for everyone and if it involves everyone, not just designed by rich countries for poor countries. The only way to build this universal development programme is to take into account cultural diversity, as there is no single model," said Irina Bokova.

The Director-General also visited the Arni Magnusson Institute and the precious manuscripts devoted to the history of Iceland, inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

"Iceland is a living example of a country where a deep commitment to language and culture are levers to get in touch with each other and better understand each other. Arni Magnusson preserved these manuscripts in an era of rapid modernization, marked by the development of printing and the disappearance of ancient knowledge. We must build on his work today in the Internet era to preserve the diversity of our cultural heritage."

Irina Bokova met with the teams of the future Vigdis Finnbogadóttir Institute for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding, highlighting the essential role of the center for the protection and promotion of linguistic diversity, a pillar for cultural diversity.

"All languages are equal, and each contains a wealth of knowledge and knowledge about our environment. The loss of a language is a loss of consciousness for all mankind, which we cannot afford. There can be no possible human development without respect for what makes us human beings, our language and our culture."

During a working lunch with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Irina Bokova reviewed UNESCO’s reform and the measures taken to focus the work of the Organization and improve the implementation of programmes on the ground, especially through Field Offices. She welcomed the political and financial support of the Nordic countries in general and Iceland in particular.