Historical Background

In April 2005, UNESCO’s Executive Board endorsed (171 EX/Decision 20, para.71, and 171 EX/Decision 55) the strategy on languages proposed by the Secretariat (171 EX/20) and asked for the development of a detailed action plan. During the 33rd session of the General Conference, which took place in October 2005, several Member States confirmed their interest and support in developing a coherent programme on languages at UNESCO.

As a part of this new intersectoral approach in the field of languages and multilingualism, in January 2006 (DG/Note/06/06, 20 January 2006), the Director-General created a Task Force for languages and multilingualism, charged with assuring the strategic coordination and monitoring of all activities related to this field.

This Task Force, chaired by the Director-General, met five times between its creation date and September 2007. It established a programme review of ongoing activities in collaboration with all UNESCO field offices and developed an intersectoral strategy, which it presented in April 2007 at the 176th session of the Executive Board.

On 16 May 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2008 as International Year of Languages and appointed UNESCO as the lead agency for the Year’s events. To develop guidelines for UNESCO’s strategy for the International Year for Languages, the Task Force met for the last time in September 2007.

The strategic role of the Director-General’s Task Force for languages and multilingualism has been replaced by the complementary action of the intersectoral team, ‘Focal Points for Languages’, formed by specialists from all UNESCO sectors working on projects related to languages.

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