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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
Discovery, UNESCO and the UN Works Programme mark International Mother Language Day with a celebration of cultural diversity
Editorial Contact: Petra Buchanan, Tel: +240-662-5900. E-mail: petra_buchanan@discovery.com
Carmel Mulvany, tel: +212-963-2300. E-mail: mulvany@un.org
Audiovisual Contact: Claude Van Engeland, Tel: +331-45-68-16-85. - Email

11-02-2003 6:25 pm Paris - In celebration of International Mother Language Day – February – Discovery Communications, Inc. (DCI), in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the UN Works Programme, will highlight some of the world’s endangered languages with a broadcast to over 100 million viewers internationally on the Discovery Channel.NewLogoDisc.jpg Working to protect cultural diversity, the initiative joins DCI’s quality brands and commitment to education, UNESCO’s on-going work on endangered cultures, and the UN Works’ mission to develop partnerships that raise awareness about key global issues.

The broadcast will include nine short-form programs that capture stories from the few remaining people who speak these threatened languages. The stories were filmed in Scotland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Argentina, and India. Websites from UNESCO www.unesco.org and the UN Works Programme (www.un.org/works) will complement the short-form programs to futher bring these little known languages and cultures to millions of people worldwide. On International Mother Language Day, Discovery Channel will also air Archives of Babel, a program that attempts to reconstruct the world’s first language, as spoken by every human being at a given moment in history. Many of today’s languages have roots originating from that single language.

We know that communities lose some of their unique cultural heritage. It is estimated that at the height of language diversity there were between 7,000 and 8,000 distinct languages. Today they are in a rapid state of decline and linguists are facing a race against time to document them for posterity. According to recent estimates, very few people speak most of the 6,000 known languages around the world. Half of today’s languages have fewer than 10,000 speakers and a quarter have fewer than 1,000.

“Discovery’s partnership with UNESCO and the UN Works Programme,” said Judith A. McHale, President and Chief Operating Officer, Discovery Communications, Inc., “works to protect cultural diversity and helps to promote languages as a means of communication and exchange.”

“Languages are at the heart of humanity’s intangible heritage. They are born, they evolve and, sometimes, they are doomed to die. Yet, it behooves us to do all in our power to safeguard them so as to preserve the world’s invaluable cultural diversity. To this end and to rise to the challenge of multilingualism, UNESCO supports language policies that promote mother tongues,” said Koīchiro Matsuura, UNESCO’s Director-General.

“Promoting respect for diversity is a vital part of the United Nations global mission,” said Shashi Tharoor, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. “The UN Works’ media partnership with Discovery and UNESCO will educate audiences around the world about the importance of preserving endangered languages that give voice to humanity’s rich cultural heritage. When the world loses a language we lose part of ourselves,” Mr Tharoor added.

Each organization will tap its unique resources to generate awareness and exposure for endangered languages, as languages are the fundamental vehicle to safeguard, transmit and promote cultural heritage:

  • Discovery Communications, Inc. is committed to creating stand alone programming on its global networks, developing promotions, and using its airtime to highlight dying languages and bring attention to UNESCO’s efforts to educate people around the world about the importance of cultural heritage.

  • UNESCO provides access to information and prominent members of the scientific and academic community that are working to promote linguistic diversity and multilingual education. Detailed information will be provided through UNESCO’s website (www.unesco.org) and the UN Works Programme (www.un.org/works)— about the UN’s projects that promote cultural heritage.

  • The UN Works Programme collaborates with public and private partners to promote key global issues such as cultural diversity and endangered languages through media and educational outreach. UN Works will feature on its website stories that focus on the people and places profiled in the short-form programs.

  • Note to editors:

    Discovery Communications, Inc. (DCI) is the leading global real-world media and entertainment company. DCI has grown from its core property, the Discovery Channel, first launched in the United States in 1985, to current global operations in more than 155 countries and territories with over 830 million cumulative subscribers. DCI’s 33 networks of distinctive programming represent 14 entertainment brands including TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery Kids, Discovery Civilization Channel, The Science Channel, Discovery Wings Channel, Discovery Home & Leisure Channel, Discovery en Espaņol and HD Theater. DCI’s other properties consist of Discovery.com and 167 Discovery Channel retail stores. DCI also distributes BBC America in the United States. DCI’s ownership consists of four shareholders: Liberty Media Corporation (NYSE: L), Cox Communications, Inc. (NYSE: COX), Advance/Newhouse Communications and John S. Hendricks, the Company’s Founder, Chairman and CEO.

    UNESCO www.unesco.org fosters intellectual solidarity and cooperation among its 188 Member States through programmes and standard-setting activities in education, science, culture and communication. Its major activities are: assisting states in providing life-long education for all, promoting quality basic education; advancing the transfer and sharing of scientific knowledge; preserving and enhancing cultural and natural heritage as well as living cultures; and contributing to the creation of a communication and information society for all, to the free flow of ideas and to bridging the communication and information gap.

    The UN Works Programme collaborates with public and private partners to raise awareness about global issues such as cultural diversity, HIV/AIDS, biodiversity, education, and human rights through PSAs, original programming, web-based features, media and educational outreach and other promotional activities. Links to profiles of real people, projects and partnerships on the UN Works website (www.un.org/works),provide access to more information and show how the United Nations is working to improve the lives of real people everywhere.

    Source Press Release
    Author(s) Discovery, UNESCO, the UN Works Programme

     ID: 9327 | guest (Read) Updated: 04-03-2004 11:40 am | © 2003 - UNESCO - Contact