Building peace in the minds of men and women

Statement of the Director-General on linguistic diversity on the Internet

As the United Nations agency for education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, UNESCO has long and actively promoted cultural and linguistic diversity as foundations for sustainable development and lasting peace.

I believe we must seize the technological revolution that has occurred over the last two decades, embodied in the exponential growth of the Internet, to advance the use of different languages and ensure access to different cultures and experiences of cultural diversity.

This is why I welcome the work of the technical community in codifying the representation of characters from many of the world’s alphabets into ASCII character strings -- as this allows the use of non-Latin script on the Internet and the introduction of internationalised domain names (IDNs) in the Internet domain name system. These are key steps for diversity.

We must now do more to overcome remaining obstacles. UNESCO’s experience and the 2012 study of the use of internationalised domain names undertaken with “EURid” -- the “.eu registry manager – show that the main challenges are technical. Obstacles lie with Internet browsers that do not consistently support non-ASCII characters, with limited e-mail functionality, and with the lack of support of non-ASCII characters in popular applications, websites and mobile devices.

We must do more to increase the use of non-Latin scripts in cyberspace. The technical community has a key role to play here, to untangle these issues and release the full power of the Internet. All societies, all women and men, must be able to benefit from the opportunities for creating and sharing knowledge through the Internet in their own languages. This is essential for inclusive and sustainable global development.

UNESCO is committed to a multilingual Internet – we need the support of all actors to make this a reality.