Addis Ababa, 18 December 2020 (ECA) - On 18 December, United Nations staff, representatives of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Addis Ababa and the Permanent Mission of the League of Arab States to the AU, Ambassadors, and the Arabic community in Addis Ababa, came together to celebrate the UN Arabic Language Day at the ECA Conference Centre.
In her opening remarks at the event, ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, spoke in Arabic and said that it was an honor and privilege for ECA to be celebrating the UN Arabic Language Day for the third time at the Economic Commission for Africa.
The Executive Secretary seized the opportunity to salute the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Addis Ababa and the Permanent Mission of the League of Arab States to the AU and ECA for their continued support of this annual event. She also thanked her ECA colleagues for their efforts in the preparation of this event.
“There is growing awareness that languages not only play a vital role in the development of cultural diversity and in ensuring intercultural dialogue,” she said, “but also in strengthening cooperation, in building inclusive knowledge societies, in preserving cultural heritage and in building and preserving peace.”
Ms. Songwe stated that as an essential factor in harmonious communication and dialogue among peoples, multilingualism was also regarded by the United Nations General Assembly as a core value of the Organization. “By promoting tolerance, multilingualism ensures the effective and increased participation of all in the Organization’s work, as well as greater effectiveness, better performance and improved transparency.”
“At ECA, we are committed to promoting multilingualism. It is the reason why every year, between the months of February and September, we dedicate a specific day to the celebration of each of the six official languages of the United Nations, along with days dedicated to the commemoration of mother languages and the translation profession," she indicated.
Noting that this year’s celebration was taking place in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Songwe said, “although this context has imposed restrictions on and challenges to the United Nations and the world in general, it has also highlighted the contributions of the United Nations to the global effort that is underway to build back better. The partnership among the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Addis Ababa, the League of Arab States and the Economic Commission for Africa to organize this celebration is a symbol of unity in action. More is to come from this partnership.”
She added: "As we come together to celebrate the Arabic language day today, the 75th anniversary of the UN and as we continue to celebrate the Decade of Action, it is important that we do not forget the reasons why the UN came together. As we celebrate our diversity, let us remember that together we stand as one United Nations.”
For her part, Ambassador Nezha Alaoui M’hammdi, representing the Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps in Addis Ababa and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Morocco, described the current challenges of access to scientific content in Arabic in comparison with other languages such as English and French. Alaoui M’hammdi stressed the importance of academic publications and research work being made available in Arabic for this important language to keep up with major ongoing global technological transformations.
Ambassador Saleh M.A. Sahboun Ambassador of the League of Arab States to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union and Economic Commission for Africa also spoke at the event. He stressed the importance of the use of Arabic in interactions and support to member countries, and the UN’s key role in doing so given the importance of using the language for better impact.
According to UNESCO, the Arabic language is a pillar of the cultural diversity of humanity. It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, used daily by more than 290 million people. “In the diversity of its forms, classic or dialectal, from oral expression to poetic calligraphy, the Arabic language has given rise to a fascinating aesthetic, in fields as varied as architecture, poetry, philosophy and song.”
The ECA celebration showcased the richness of the Arabic language and included presentations on Arabic history, culture, language, poetry, a cultural exhibit and the Arabic language knowledge products by the ECA North African Subregional office.
A moment of silence was observed to remember the late Dad Ould Maouloud Ahmad, former Chief of Arabic Translation Unit at ECA, who died on 15 March, 2020.
Observed annually on December 18, the UN Arabic Language Day was established by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2010 seeking "to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six of its official working languages throughout the organization". December 18 was chosen as the date for the Arabic language as it is "the day in 1973 when the General Assembly approved Arabic as an official UN language ".
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