Internationalized Domain Names

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UNESCO strongly advocates for a multilingual Internet that contributes to universal access to information and knowledge, as well as cultural diversity in cyberspace.   Over the last decade, the Internet has had an increasing impact on social, political and economic life. The tremendous development of the Internet has brought the attention of the international community to its structural functioning and public multidimensional implications, broadly described as ‘Internet Governance’.

Since 2007, UNESCO has been involved in the discussions at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), collaborating with other international organizations such the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), ICANN and other public and private partners.

While UNESCO has continuously promoted the development and dissemination of multilingual content in cyberspace through various initiatives, most recently, the Organization has agreed to undertake issues relating to multilingual addressing and access to cyberspace.

Considerable work has been undertaken by ICANN to develop the Internet Domain Name System through the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which introduced top-level domains (TLDs) in different scripts and enabled Internet users to access domain names in their own language. UNESCO supports this development by ensuring that all Member States are fully aware of the issues arising from the development of IDNs and that they are engaged in the surrounding policy debate.

Partnership with ICANN

© UNESCO - UNESCO and ICANN partnership agreement

In December 2009, UNESCO signed a partnership agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Both organizations agreed to collaborate on the internationalization of the Internet. More specifically, the UNESCO-ICANN agreement covers a variety of cooperation areas so that the new development can benefit as many language groups as possible. UNESCO agreed notably to call upon its network of linguistic experts to help in the process; inform Member States about the new IDNs; encourage involvement of other relevant United Nations agencies; and establish working groups to help developing and least-developed countries participate fully.

In September 2010, UNESCO signed a Letter of Intent with ICANN at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2010. The main objective of this joint effort is for UNESCO to assist Internet users’ access in Member States whose official languages are based on the Cyrillic script.  This is achieved through the creation of internationalized country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLDs) in Cyrillic in relation to the country name abbreviations reference table.

In September 2011, UNESCO hosted an expert working group meeting on Cyrillic script at its Headquarters in Paris.

Six case studies on the Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek and Latin scripts, prepared in the framework of the International Domain Names (IDN) Variants Issues Project, are now available for consultation online. All interested parties were invited to provide their comments and recommendations by 14 November 2011.

In November 2011, UNESCO continues to cooperate with ICANN on the issues related to the internationalization of the Internet, specifically to the work of the working group on the use of country and territory names as top-level countries (TLDs).

Collaborative work with the European Registry of Internet Domain Names (EURid)

The 2013 EURid-UNESCO World Report on Internationalized Domain Names published on 24 October 2013 with the support of Verisign was presented at the Internet Governance Forum 2013 (IGF), in Bali, Indonesia.

The .eu registry EURid and UNESCO are sharing their latest report on the global uptake of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) at the 7th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 6 November 2012.

In May 2011, UNESCO supported the publication of a  EURid study which examines the global use of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) that support non-Latin scripts and multilingualism online. The study is a part of the EURid ‘Insights’ series, which aims to analyze specific aspects of the domain name environment. The reports are based on surveys, studies and research conducted by EURid in cooperation with industry experts and sector leaders.

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