The United Nations is asking college and university students to write an essay in one of its six official languages on the role of multilingualism in a globalized world.
The contest, 'Many Languages, One World,' supports international education and multilingualism through the continued study of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
It was launched today at UN Headquarters in New York with a signing ceremony between the UN Department of Public Information and the ELS Educational Services.
"Our collaboration focuses on two of the priorities of the Secretary-General, one being youth and the other multiculturalism, and this is a wonderful way of bringing those two together," said Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information following today's signing ceremony launching the contest.
The senior UN official signed on behalf of the UN Academic Impact (UNAI), which is co-organizing the event as part of its commitment to multilingual education, with ELS.
"Through this event, we hope to focus a light on the role of the UN," said Mark Harris, CEO and President of ELS.
"The role of the UN is the role of every global citizen, which is to make peace and to look at ways to enhance the qualities of life, health and spiritual fulfilment of peoples around the world through common understanding and through language," Mr. Harris added.
To qualify, the student's native language has to be different from the one in which he or she writes, and different from the principal one at the school.
A panel of international judges, to be invited by the UNAI and ELS Educational Services, will select ten top winners in each language category who will be invited to New York by ELS to participate in a series of events in June 2014.
These events will include a youth forum on global citizenship and the nine other principles of UNAI at UN Headquarters on 27 June 2014, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the UN Charter. The forum will be preceded by a preparatory students' conference at Adelphi University on Long Island, New York.
"I think it's an excellent project," said Lyutha Sultan Al-Mughairy, the Chairperson of the Committee on Information, a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly. The Ambassador, who represents Oman, noted that the contest is "good encouragement" for multilingual study.
Also participating in today's event, Fillippe Savadogo, Ambassador of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), who said the project was creating "dynamism" and was "consolidating the spirit of the world."
Mr. Savadogo, who spoke in French, was one of the six speakers to make remarks in one of the official languages of the UN.