Towards UNESCO’s World Atlas of Languages: Final Recommendations for the Action Plan

UNESCO has released a strategic document on the next steps to promote linguistic diversity and multilingualism in cyberspace. More than 60 leading experts and professional organizations from 25 countries contributed to the elaboration of this document and provided concrete suggestions for the preparation of a plan of action in order to launch UNESCO’s World Atlas of Languages.

According to this document, stakeholders such as governments, academia and professional community, industry, media and content producers, and others should, among others:

  1. Formulate, contribute and adopt sustainable national language policies on the crucial issue of linguistic diversity and multilingualism, including promotion, safeguarding, representation, technological development, especially for the improvement of access to cyberspace for disadvantaged communities;
  2. Encourage developments on language technology systems and tools with extensive multilingual capabilities, with regard to operating systems, search engines and web browsers and to consider facilitating affordable Internet access in public service institutions.
  3. Strengthen international cooperation and building partnerships to support capacity-building for the production and distribution of local and indigenous content in digital and open forms and work to provide necessary resources to alleviate barriers for a different language users, including marginalized communities.

Recalling the importance of upscaling the existing tool for promotion and monitoring of linguistic diversity and multilingualism, experts recommended to develop UNESCO’s World Atlas of Languages along the following steps over the next two-year period:

  1. Establishment of an Advisory Group composed of professionals and experts within the relevant fields, respecting geographical representation and gender balance;
  2. Development of a mechanism and sustainable tools for monitoring language vitality and for the assessment, promotion and preservation using innovative technological solutions;
  3. Promotion of multilingualism in the context of the international frameworks such as Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) outcomes implementation and seek support for other international events.

Once operational, the UNESCO’s World Atlas of Languages should contain a full data on languages, policies, regulations, technical recommendations and best practices in this field. It is expected that a new globally accessible and open online platform will be used for monitoring and promotion of the world’s languages online, strengthen cooperation and knowledge sharing using open and inclusive technological solutions among international, regional and national language institutions.

The international expert meeting, held from 28 to 29 October 2014 in Paris, was organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the Government of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra (Russian Federation), the Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme.