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Communication for everyone: making multilingualism a priority in DPI

Posted: Friday, 18 May 2012, New York | Author: Department of Public Information

Communication for everyone: making multilingualism a priority in DPI (Credits: Graphic Design Unit)The promotion of multilingualism was a clear priority for Member States during the meeting of the Committee on Information  last month, and the Department of Public Information (DPI) has been actively seeking ways to address this by providing services in other languages as part of its continuing efforts to bring the UN closer to the people it serves.

“Our commitment to diversifying our coverage in UN official languages remains unwavering,” the Acting Head of DPI, Maher Nasser, told participants at the COI, stressing that language parity in both new and already established media was a goal that DPI has been pursuing.

Ideally, people would have access to the UN in their own language regardless of whether they are reading a story about the latest developments in Syria, listening to a programme on sustainable cities during a traffic jam, watching a clip on YouTube about women in Latin America, or retweeting a quote by SG Ban Ki-moon. However, achieving language parity is an ongoing challenge, one that DPI has been addressing in various ways.

The UN News Centre  provides daily news stories in all six languages. 

UN Radio  produces daily clips not just in the six official languages but also in Portuguese and Swahili. Weekly programmes are translated into other languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Bangla, Haitian Creole and Indonesian.

UN Television  distributes programmes in the six official languages, including video with subtitles and audio in several languages. The Webcast  unit also provides the option of viewing subtitles in the official languages for videos on the United Nations Channel on YouTube .

The UN has been increasing its efforts to make its online persona in social media reflect its multilingualism. One of the best examples is the Rio+20 campaign , conducted in all official six languages with the “Future We Want” hashtag becoming #NuestroFuturo, #NotreAvenir, without letting character or language restrictions limit its meaning. Six million social media users have engaged with the campaign.

In addition, the 63 UN Information Centres (UNICs) disseminate information in more than 30 local languages and have produced publications and multimedia products in 153, reaching journalists, government officials, students, educators and researchers.

While 95 per cent of the sites prepared by DPI are multilingual, language parity is still not a reality, making it vital to find new and creative ways to increase the UN’s language capabilities, such as long-term partnerships with academic institutions for pro bono translation of content. The Web Services Section (WSS) has expanded these relationships to other universities as well as UN Volunteers.

To learn more about multilingualism at work in the UN, please read the 2009/2010 Report of the Secretary-General . The next report will be released later this summer. Stay tuned.