reducing inequality

Putting SDG 4 Back on Track After COVID-19: The Essential Role of Multilingualism in Education

A High-Level Political Forum Side Event on 11 July 2022

co-hosted by the NGO Committee on Language and Languages, the Universal Esperanto Association, and the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations

Register here by July 10!


Even before COVID-19, alarms were sounded that progress on SDG 4 was too slow and that the achievement of its targets by 2030 was in jeopardy. Linguistic inequality in access to education has been a key factor. The 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report showed that 40% of the global population was not accessing education in a language they understand. The onset of the pandemic exacerbated such inequalities as over 1.6 billion learners experienced school closures, cutting them off from language and literacy learning opportunities. Moreover, the digital divide prevented vulnerable populations, especially in least developed countries, from accessing online education, including resources for language development. In order to achieve inclusive and equitable education for linguistically diverse student populations, multilingualism must be foregrounded in post-pandemic educational planning.

Accordingly, this side event focuses on recommendations for the role of languages in education put forth in Reimagining Our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education, the UNESCO report on the Futures of Education initiative. Specifically, it brings together leading experts in the field of language education from diverse global contexts who address what it means in practice to take a multilingual perspective on the targets of SDG 4. Drawing upon empirical research and documented best practices, they demonstrate how schools can cultivate multilingual resources, including mother tongues, major world languages, national and regional languages, Indigenous languages, and international languages like Esperanto to achieve inclusive and equitable education that empowers students as global citizens prepared for participation in social, economic, and political life.


  • Pedagogical Translanguaging to Make the Most of Multilingualism, Professor Jasone Cenoz, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU
  • Multilingualism as a Resource for Learning and a Decolonial Strategy, Dr. Xolisa Guzula, University of Capetown, School of Education

Moderated by Professor Humphrey Tonkin and Professor Francis M. Hult with welcoming remarks by Mr. Guillermo Escribano, Director General for the Spanish Language around the World at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Spain


CoNGO Notes: The NGO Committee on Language and Languages is a Substantive Committee of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations – for more information, please email the co-chairs at or Likewise, for more information on the NGO Committee on Social Development, please visit For more information on the NGO Committee on Education, Learning, and Literacy, please visit

Panel Discussion on Deepening Inequalities Exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic and their Implications for the Realization of Human Rights

Join us at HRC48 for this half-day panel discussion on 28 September from 15:00 to 17:00 CET.

Background documents, the concept note and full agenda are available here:

Date and venue:

Tuesday, 28 September 2021, 3 to 5 p.m. Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva and online platform (Zoom)

To be webcast live and archived at


As States work to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, this panel discussion will address inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic and their implications for the realization of human rights. This discussion aims to identify ways to alleviate inequality within and among States by sharing best practices, solutions to challenges and lessons learned, including in the context of integrated approaches to the promotion and protection of human rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – paying particular attention to Goal 10 on reducing inequality. The meeting will also address the role of greater international cooperation in further reducing inequalities within and among States.

The objectives are:

  • To highlight and address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the goal to reduce inequality, with a particular emphasis on the requirement of the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health to eliminate vaccine inequality. Recognition that no one is safe until everyone is safe will also be looked at from a human rights perspective as will the necessity of vaccine equality in promoting and protecting all human rights;
  • To identify the role of the promotion and protection of human rights and technical cooperation in setting priorities and addressing gaps in the global vaccine roll out. The focus will be on the importance of the human rights approach in addition to the moral and ethical case;
  • To understand how to better use the United Nations human rights mechanisms to advance vaccine equality as a necessary step in the promotion and protection of all human rights and how to provide technical cooperation in this regard;
  • To address how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the digital divide – using education to illustrate how the divide detrimentally affects the realisation of human rights – and to engage in a constructive dialogue among States and other stakeholders about sharing good practices and experience with regard to overcoming the digital divide and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all;
  • To identify concrete steps for building back better, including by reversing the impact of austerity and economic inequalities and realising a human rights-based economy.

Organized by:

Development Economic Social issues Branch
Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


CoNGO Notes: For more information on the NGO Committee on Human Rights, please email the co-chairs at or For more information on the NGO Committee on Financing for Development, please visit For more information on the NGO Committee for Rare Diseases, please visit