International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity andmultilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999. Its observance was also formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages.
International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since 2000 February to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students from different educational institutions such as Dhaka University, Jagannath University, Dhaka Medical College demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka (near High Court), which is the capital of present-day Bangladesh.
The term “mother language” is, itself, a somewhat awkward calque translation of the term used in a number of “Romance languages”—e.g. lengua materna (Spanish),lingua madre (Italian), langue maternelle (French), and so on. A more fluent English translation would perhaps be “mother tongue”, though “native language” is the most readily comprehensible term in English. In linguistics, in fact, “mother language” refers to an ancestral or protolanguage of a particular branch of a language family.
International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62). On 16 May 2009 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. By the same resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism.Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.
For the United Nations, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of our global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the International Labour Organization of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.
The General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.
Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.