NGO Committee on Language and Languages

UNESCO and Multilingualism: A Dialogue Forum

The NGO Committee on Language and Languages presents

UNESCO and Multilingualism: A Dialogue Forum

18 May 2022


For over 70 years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been a leading voice on multilingualism.  Today, it engages in numerous initiatives to advance linguistic diversity.  In this forum, UNESCO staff members working on multilingual education, the World Atlas of Languages (WAL), and the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (IDIL) discuss ongoing initiatives and forthcoming developments.  The session follows a show-and-tell and conversation format to facilitate dialogue.  Representatives of NGOs, Secretariat and UN agency staff, and colleagues from Member States are welcome to attend.  A business meeting of the NGO Committee on Language and Languages will take place during the final 40 minutes.

Event Details

The NGO Committee on Language and Languages (CoLL) is hosting the dialogue forum virtually on 18 May 2022.

08:45-11:00 – New York
14:45-17:00 – Geneva
15:45-18:00 – Nairobi
19:45-22:00 – Bangkok


Representatives of NGOs, Secretariat and UN agency staff, and colleagues from Member States are welcome to attend.   There is no fee, but preregistration is required.  Register here as soon as possible, but no later than 16 May.


8:45-9:00am Sign In

9:00-9:05am   Francis M. Hult – Introduction

Interim Vice-Chair, NGO Committee on Language and Languages

9:05-9:10am   Eliot Minchenberg – Welcome

Director of Office and UNESCO Representative to the United Nations in New York

9:10-9:30am   Noro Andriamiseza Ingarao – Multilingual Education

Programme Specialist in Education, UNESCO

9:30-9:50am   Irmgarda Kasinskaite – International Decade of Indigenous Languages

Advisor, Communication and Information, UNESCO

9:50-10:10am Bhanu Neupane – World Atlas of Languages

Advisor, Open Access to Scientific Information and ICT & Sciences, UNESCO

10:10-10:20am General Discussion about the Multilingual Initiatives of UNESCO

10:20-11:00am CoLL Business Meeting

Humphrey Tonkin, presiding

Interim Chair, NGO Committee on Language and Languages


CoNGO Notes: This event is held the NGO Committee on Language and Languages, a substantive committee of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO). Learn more about this Committee and how you may collaborate with it by visiting substantive committees.

Language and languages to get greater attention by NGOs at the UN

New York City, 30 September 2020 (CoNGO InfoNews) — The formation of an NGO Committee on Language and Languages is underway under the auspices of CoNGO (The Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations). The full text of the proposal is available here.

The Committee will be based in New York and will accept membership from NGO representatives from around the world. Its proponent, Humphrey Tonkin, propounds that “Fundamental to the work of the United Nations is the spoken and written word. The United Nations is a place of negotiation and action in which language and communication underlie everything that it does.”

“The UN Secretariat works in two languages; the General Assembly works in six; the various members of the UN family have their own language policies, intended to promote inclusion. Beyond its official languages, the United Nations interacts with the public in a host of other languages. “

Why language and languages? As the proposal says, the “Committee will cover both language use at the UN (sexist language, the language of hate, the language of peace, human rights language) and the use of languages at the UN (provision of translation and interpretation, documentation, outreach to speakers of other languages, parity among languages, protection and promotion of indigenous languages, etc.).”

Tonkin is on the board of directors of CoNGO. He represents the Universal Esperanto Association as an NGO representative at the United Nations. He is President and University Professor of the Humanities, emeritus, of the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

Tonkin and Chuck Mays recently penned an opinion piece about linguistic equality and justice, including Esperanto opposition “to discrimination on grounds of language, the suppression of minority languages” and how they “favor the promotion of linguistic rights as part of those rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Liberato Bautista, the president of CoNGO, welcomed the move to form the NGO Committee. “I look forward to constituting the committee and welcoming it as an important addition to the 35 NGO committees under CoNGO’s umbrella.”

NGO Committees are either based in New York, Geneva, or Vienna. Today, there are also committees focused on women and gender operating out of four political regions in the world.

The establishment of an NGO committee is guided by the CoNGO Rules, in particular Rules 38 to 48 (see sidebar). Twenty (20) NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status are needed to start the process of constituting the committee.

NGOs interested in becoming inaugural and constituting members of the NGO Committee on Language and Languages must send an email to Humphrey Tonkin ( and Liberato Bautista (, indicating their desire to join in forming the committee. Once twenty NGOs have formalized their request to form the Committee, the CoNGO president will call a meeting to constitute the Committee.

To join in forming this new Committee, fill out the form here.

Excerpts from the Rules of CoNGO 


38. Committees may be established under the auspices of the Conference in order to promote and facilitate collective work among NGOs on the substantive issues related to programmes, policies and activities of the United Nations system. These committees may organize activities which provide opportunities for NGOs to debate such issues, to articulate their views, to advocate positions with respect to UN resolutions or programmes, and to mobilize public opinion.

39. Committees may be established either by the General Assembly or by the Board at the request of twenty (20) or more Members, which shall specify whether the committee is to be a standing or fixed-term committee. When a decision has been taken to establish such a  committee, the Board shall notify the Members of the Conference and invite all Members to an initial meeting.

See  CoNGO Rules 38 to 48 here that govern NGO substantive committees.