Official languages of the United Nations

The official languages of the United Nations are the six languages that are used in UN meetings, and in which all official UN documents are written. In alphabetical order, they are:


These languages are used at meetings of various UN organs, particularly the General Assembly (Article 51 of its Rules of Procedure), the Economic and Social Council, and the Security Council (Article 41 of its Rules of Procedure). Each representative of a country may speak in any one of these six languages, or may speak in any language and provide interpretation into one of the six official languages. The UN provides simultaneous interpretation from the official language into the other five official languages, via the United Nations Interpretation Service.

The six official languages are also used for the dissemination of official documents. Generally, the texts in each of the six languages are equally authoritative.

The United Nations has drawn criticism for relying too heavily on English, and not enough on the other five official languages. Spanish-speaking member nations formally brought this to the attention of the Secretary-General in 2001.[3] Secretary-General Kofi Annan then responded that full parity of the six official languages was unachievable within current budgetary restraints, but he nevertheless attached great importance to improving the linguistic balance.[4] In 2008 and 2009, resolutions of the General Assembly have urged the Secretariat to respect the parity of the six official languages, especially in the dissemination of public information.[5][6]

On 8 June 2007,[7] resolutions concerning human resources management at the UN, the General Assembly had emphasized "the paramount importance of the equality of the six official languages of the United Nations" and requested that the Secretary-General "ensure that vacancy announcements specified the need for either of the working languages of the Secretariat, unless the functions of the post required a specific working language".

The Secretary-General's most recent report on multilingualism was issued on 4 October 2010.[8] In response, on 19 July 2011, the General Assembly adopted Resolution No. A/RES/65/311 on multilingualism, calling on the Secretary-General, once again, to ensure that all six official languages are given equally favourable working conditions and resources. The resolution noted with concern that the multilingual development of the UN website had improved at a much slower rate than expected.[9]

The six official languages spoken at the UN are the first or second language of 2.8 billion people on the planet, less than half of the world population. The six languages are official languages in more than half the countries in the world (about one hundred).[citation needed]

Other Languages