34th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly: 50th Session - Part 1

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20-Oct-1995 01:34:37
Text promoting multilingualism introduced in General Assembly to ensure language consideration in UN recruitment at the 34th plenary meeting of the 50th session.

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The Secretary-General would be requested to ensure that personnel recruited by the United Nations would have a command of and make use of at least one of the Organization's six official languages in addition to one working language of the Secretariat, by the terms of a draft resolution introduced this morning in the General Assembly.

Also by that text, which was introduced by France and Argentina, the Secretary-General would be requested to ensure, in particular in the recruitment and promotion of Secretariat staff, equality of the working languages of the Secretariat -- English and French -- and of their use within the Organization.

Speakers favouring the draft said that the principle of multilingualism was not being upheld in practice. They pointed out that interpretation services were faced with cutbacks and more and more often documents were not available in all the official languages. Multilingualism was a sign of respect among Member States for one another and for their differences, which constituted their wealth and the basis of international collaboration, said the speakers. In addition, multilingualism was not only a question of principal, but also of quality and effectiveness, as it preserved the richness and nuances of oral and written expression.

The draft's sponsors stated that if the United Nations did not support multilingualism, it would be failing in its calling to be a universal body. The importance of that calling should not be minimized by financial or practical considerations, they said.

Those expressing concern about the provisions of the draft, including Singapore, Japan (who spoke also on behalf of Thailand and the Republic of Korea) and Malaysia, said if United Nations staff were compelled to have a knowledge of one of the official and one of the working languages of the Organization, that would discriminate against those whose mother tongue was neither. Nationals from countries that did not have an official language as their national language would be at a disadvantage and that, in turn, would ultimately be a detriment to the Organization's multicultural character. Amendments were proposed by Japan and Malaysia to take account of such concerns.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Monaco, Benin, Lebanon, Mauritania, Cote d'Ivoire, Spain, Panama, Belgium, Tunisia, Mexico and Germany.

At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly President reminded the Assembly that the World Week of Peace would begin on 24 October.

The General Assembly will meet again at the level of heads of State and government at 10 a.m. Sunday, 22 October, for a special meeting commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations.

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