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United Nations Day: Why and How Do We Celebrate It?

In many countries around the world, people celebrate United Nations Day with national costumes, flags, and music performances. That’s because this day is a symbol of cultural diversity.

The United Nations are famous for their work in disaster relief, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, and international unity. Every 24 October we celebrate its anniversary as a reminder of the importance of diversity, culture, and the spirit of brotherhood.

Why 24 October?

It was on 24 October 1945 that the foundational treaty of the United Nations brought the organisation into existence. Mainly, the aim was to encourage co-operation between all the governments of the world after the failure of the League of Nations. In other words, it was an effort to prevent another war like World War II from breaking out.

A Bit About the League of Nations, the Forerunner to the UN

Horrified by the suffering of WWI, many people in Europe wanted a lasting peace. The League of Nations was set up to this purpose and was supposed to keep the peace. In the 1920s it had some successes, but by 1937 it had become irrelevant, ignored even by its main members, Britain and France. In 1939, despite the efforts of the League, the world was once again plunged into war.

Why Did the League of Nations Fail?

  • The self-interest of leading members: the League depended on Britain and France to provide firm support in time of crisis, but these were not prepared to abandon their own self-interest.
  • The USA and other important countries were absent: Germany was not a member until 1926 and left in 1933. The USSR did not join until 1934, while Japan left in 1933 and Italy in 1937. Most importantly, the USA was never a member. Without such major powers, the League lacked authority and sanctions were not effective.
  • Economic sanctions did not work: they were supposed to be the League’s main weapon, but members of the League did not willingly impose them because they worried that without America’s support they would not work.
  • Lack of troops: if economic sanctions failed, military force was the next option. Yet the League had no armed forces of its own.
  • The treaties it had to uphold were seen as unfair: it became apparent that some of the terms of those peace treaties were harsh and unjust.
  • Decisions were slow: when a crisis occurred, the League was supposed to act quickly and with determination. In many cases, however, the League took too long.

The Birth of the United Nations

After the failure of the League of Nations, the United Nations was founded in 1945 in an attempt to prevent further wars and to help nations to co-operate in tackling some of the major problems facing the world after WWII.

How to Celebrate #UNDay

Did you know that the UN feed over 90 million people around the world? Also, they promote women and child health, and aid refugees who are escaping war. Have you ever been concerned about climate change? The UN work to encourage sustainability and green practices.

Celebrating United Nations Day is a way of acknowledging this organisation’s tireless work. Here are some ideas for celebrating #UNDay 2018, alone or with others:

  • Do you live in a country that is not your native one? Then, you can wear your national costume!
  • Not a fan of public displays? You can simply go about your day being tolerant, curious towards other cultures, and open-minded.
  • Discuss the importance of cultural diversity with your colleagues at work or with your family at home.
  • Post about this day on social media together with your thoughts on international co-operation and other related matters.
  • Check out if there are any cultural activities taking place in your area and attend one.
  • Organise an international dinner to explore the traditional dishes of other cultures.
  • Offer voluntary work to organisations working for humanitarian aid, like Translators Without Borders.
  • Recycle! The UN is very committed to protecting the environment.

2019 Was The Year of Indigenous Languages

The United Nations declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages. The reason for it is to raise awareness about the important contribution they make to cultural diversity. Languages are dying and we should try to save them! Read more about this here.

2020 Is the Year of Plant Health

Plants make the oxygen we breathe and give us 80 per cent of the food we eat. But plants are under attack by invasive pests. That leaves millions of people worldwide without enough food to eat and seriously damages agriculture—the primary source of income for rural communities. To bring worldwide attention to this challenge, the UN has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health.

Official UN Languages

Have you ever dreamed of working as a linguist for the United Nations? If so, you should know that their official languages are six: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

The reason behind this choice, it would be safe to assume, is that these languages are among the most widely spoken in the world. However, there’s also a political history behind it. As explained in an article by FluentU,

First of all, besides Spanish, all of these languages can be matched directly to permanent members of the Security Council with veto power (the U.S., Britain, China, Russia and France).  In other words, the languages that became official were the languages of the most politically influential nations in the post-war period.”

Read more here

The United Nations and the Translation Industry

The United Nations bridge cultural gaps. In the same way, translation connects cultures by breaking language barriers. Actually, the UN are very concerned with languages: one of its most important projects aims at language preservation and is called “World Languages in Danger”. According to their website, they intend to raise awareness “about language endangerment and the need to safeguard the world’s linguistic diversity.” Thanks to their extensive research work, it is possible to check a complete list of language in danger of extinction.

Also, in terms of actual translation work, the workload of the UN exceeds the capacity of their in-house staff. For that reason, the organisation outsources up to 25 % of the work. Among the external providers, we can count over 220 external individual translators and 6 translation companies who work on a contractual basis.

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