Message from the Director-General of UNESCO to the Inaugural Conference of IATIS
“Translation and the Construction of Identity”
Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, 12 August 2004.
UNESCO is particularly happy that this conference is being held at this time, bringing together as it does in the Republic of Korea many researchers from different continents to mark the launch of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS).
Aware of the important role that translation plays in promoting the exchange of ideas between peoples, countries and cultures, UNESCO regards your field of research as an area of strategic importance in the task of constructing the defences of peace in the minds of men, which is a cornerstone of the Organization’s mandate.
Translators are vital for dialogue, being central figures in the process of exchange and cross-fertilization that is at the root of all civilization. They help to establish links between worlds separated by gulfs of incomprehension and misunderstanding.
In addition, translation is a tool and a medium for the freedom to express difference. As the adoption of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on cultural Diversity (2001) suggests, the expression of cultural and linguistic diversity is of great importance to UNESCO. Indeed, translation permits each and every one of us to use our language of preference – our mother tongue, for example, of which there are approximately 6000 in existence – without having to borrow a lingua franca with which we may not be very familiar. In this sense, translation leads to understanding without reducing variety of expression. It accordingly expresses the variety and nuances of linguistic and, hence, of cultural diversity. We believe that, by promoting translation, we can better serve the cause of cultural diversity and dialogue between cultures as keys to peace between peoples. The role of mediation played by translation is all the more effective in an age of globalization, when the local and global are moving closer together and, in certain situations, merging. We are witnessing, on the one hand, an undeniable rise in the value of all languages because of their uniqueness while, on the other hand, we see a steadily growing need to communicate beyond linguistic and territorial frontiers. The two requirements can coexist peacefully thanks to translation which, in this situation, becomes a unique means of expressing the local and the global, a tool for promoting openness and a common ground for the specific and the universal to meet.
At the same time as it promotes freedom of expression and tolerance of diversity, UNESCO also recognizes the need for dialogue, for which it has been developing different programmes for several decades – like the universal translation bibliography known as the “Index Translationum”, the Collection of Representative Works and the Clearing House for Literary Translation. These programmes are designed to facilitate the diffusion of information on translation and the translation of representative works of literature that overcome the material and spiritual barriers which separate us all. The Organization also supports multilingualism in cyberspace and education systems. UNESCO, therefore, looks to your Association, which it wholeheartedly welcomes, for active support and cooperation in terms of thought, the exchange of ideas and research. Networks of this type and meetings such as today’s help us to better understand actual situations and anticipate future trends. They also help us to focus our attention on priorities and objectives.
It is therefore with considerable hope and interest that I send greetings to all those present at your meeting. I wish the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies a long and fruitful existence working in collaboration with UNESCO.