UN and Multilingualism

An essential factor in harmonious communication among peoples and an enabler of multilateral diplomacy, multilingualism is of particular importance to the United Nations. By promoting dialogue, tolerance and understanding, multilingualism ensures effective participation of all in the Organization’s work, as well as greater transparency and efficiencies and better outcomes.

Multilingualism is recognized by the General Assembly as a core value of the Organization. As such, all United Nations Secretariat entities are expected to contribute actively and demonstrate their commitment to this joint endeavor. Multilingualism mandates also call for the mainstreaming of multilingualism throughout the Secretariat. It is against this backdrop that Secretary-General António Guterres has included multilingualism among his priorities.

Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish are the six official languages of the United Nations; English and French being the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat. Parity among the six official languages has been an ongoing concern of the Secretary-General. The use of all the official languages, on an equal footing, is actively promoted to guarantee that all stakeholders can participate in the work of the United Nations. To ensure that the goals and actions of the UN are understood by the widest possible public, non-official languages are also in use at the UN on a daily basis. To achieve these objectives, the UN Secretariat promotes an organizational culture in its ranks that values and nurtures multilingualism throughout the human resources continuum.

Coordinator for Multilingualism

On 3 September 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General appointed Mr. Movses Abelian of Armenia (as well as a national of Georgia), Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, as Coordinator for Multilingualism, in implementation of General Assembly resolution 69/250. In this role, Mr. Abelian is responsible for coordinating the overall implementation of multilingualism Secretariat-wide.

The terms of reference of the Coordinator, detailed in report A/71/757, were endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 71/328 on multilingualism.

The Coordinator is expected:

  • to act as the entry point for concerns and queries from Member States and Secretariat entities;
  • to serve as a facilitator to attain a coordinated, consistent and coherent approach to multilingualism in the Secretariat; and
  • to inspire all departments and offices by initiating and proposing innovative solutions to foster an organizational culture conducive to multilingualism.

The Coordinator's work is supported by a network of focal points (.pdf) representing the Secretariat entities.

Multilingualism Resources