UNESCO Medium Term Strategy (2008-2013) on Languages and Multilingualism


[Excerpt from 34 C/4 draft document (Box 9)]

A quintessential element of culture, languages is more than tools and more than a means of communication. Through language, people build, understand and express their emotions, intentions, values, notions and practices. Language is thus a determining factor for the identity of individuals and groups; linguistic diversity is a major guarantee for cultural diversity.However, languages are also tools in the service of a number of social practices and as such they constitute a highly interdisciplinary and intersectoral domain. They are strategically important for the attainment of several MDGs and a precondition for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. Moreover, multilingualism promotes the harmonious coexistence of local, national and international languages and thus is a factor of mutual respect, intercultural dialogue and sustainable development.

Given the pervasiveness of languages as tools of a cultural nature, UNESCO will, on the one hand, demonstrate the contribution of linguistic diversity and multilingualism to development, and, on the other hand, its value for dialogue, social cohesion and peace.

UNESCO’s challenge will be to develop integrated strategies to be applied to country level programming processes.
Globally, UNESCO will advocate the principles contained in, or deriving from, the Organization’s normative instruments related to languages and multilingualism and other pertinent United Nations normative frameworks. This will imply

  •  analysis, monitoring and benchmarking activities, and
  •  internal and external communication to build and convey a shared vision and guidance towards good practices and normative-operational linkages. At the country and regional levels, UNESCO will focus on policy-advice and capacity building through multi-stakeholder partnerships to support the elaboration of coherent regional and national language policies in all domains of societal life.

The promotion of cultural diversity and dialogue will be pursued through the safeguarding of linguistic diversity, notably through the intellectual, literary and poetic heritage of humanity; the formulation of national language policies focusing in particular on the introduction of mother language education in formal and non-formal systems; the promotion of languages as vehicles for the transmission of local and indigenous knowledge; and the inclusion of multiple languages and the dissemination of local content in cyberspace.


  • Publication Date: 12-11-2007

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