UNESCO IFAP Expert Meeting Endorses Action Plan for Multilingual Cyberspace


Experts at the UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP) have endorsed an action plan for a multi-lingual cyberspace. Multilingualism in cyberspace is one of IFAP’s cross-cutting issues.

Over the years UNESCO in cooperation with other international institutions contributes to efforts taken to allow as many languages as possible to be represented and used in the rapidly changing world of information technology and cyberspace.

The International Expert Meeting on Improving Access to Multilingual Cyberspace came to a successful close on the evening of October 29, 2014 following two days of intensive and productive deliberations by 50 global experts representing 26 countries.

The meeting was a major event organized by UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division and the IFAP, in cooperation with the Government of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug-Ugra (Russian Federation), the Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO. It was held at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters.

The event was held to focus on supporting Member States to more effectively implement UNESCO’s recommendation concerning the promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace (2003), on advancing the recommendations adopted by the third IFAP International Conference, “Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace”, held in Yakutsk, Russian Federation from  June 28 to July 3, 2014, and also on developing a plan of action aimed at transforming UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger into a global platform for sharing languages resources and technological solutions, monitoring and promoting the world’s languages.

Mr. Boyan Radoykov

Discussions at the meeting were centered on a selection of national and regional successes and lessons from governmental, academic, public-private partnerships and civil society settings to provide a rich body of relevant policies and practices. Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of the Intergovernmental IFAP Council said “By drawing inspiration from these case studies, generalizing and adapting them, we were able to identify critical success elements and benefit from useful insights that assisted us in gaining clarity on the way forward and subsequently formulating the meeting’s recommendations and action plan”.

In particular, the endorsed action plan and recommendations will:

  • Support national policy development and the adoption of strategies for promoting language survival in cyberspace, language learning and universal access to cyberspace;
  • promote the development and dissemination of technological solutions, best practices and standards that facilitate access to multilingual content, including automatic translation and intelligent linguistic systems; and
  • Strengthening multi-stakeholder international cooperation and partnerships to support capacity building and access to resources.

The experts gave suggestions and action plans on how to upscale the existing Atlas of Languages in Danger towards a UNESCO World Atlas of Languages. It is expected that a new online platform will be used for monitoring and promoting most worlds’ languages as well as for providing an online space for relevant language institutions of UNESCO’s Member States to share their e-content on languages using open and inclusive technological solutions.

The representative of the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Boyan Radoykov, in his closing remarks expressed full satisfaction with the outcomes of the meeting and in underscoring its relevance, he said: “This extremely rich and productive meeting of experts highlighted the critical role of linguistic diversity and the importance of its advancement in cyberspace for ensuring universal access to information and for supporting the creation of equitable and inclusive knowledge societies, which are the key to our common sustainable future.”

Other post-conference plans discussed during the meeting included the proposed organization of a World Summit on Multilingualism.