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Our History


In 1956 the Secretary-General considered the objective of expanding the language instruction programme in the Secretariat. UNITAR agreed to plan language courses during office hours, in order for staff to acquire a working knowledge of the language chosen in a much shorter period of time than usual, and to provide the necessary resources for this purpose.

In 1967 the General Assembly requested a linguistic balance within the Secretariat and the introduction of an accelerated language instruction programme as well as a language bonus for staff in the Professional category.

In 1968 the General Assembly decided that knowledge of a second language would be confirmed by the award of a language proficiency certificate in one of the official languages.

In 1969 the Language Programme was set up to ensure a linguistic balance in the Organization. The Programme offered an extensive series of courses in the six official languages of the Organization.

In 1982 accredited staff of permanent missions were allowed to participate free of charge per Resolution 36/235. A standard fee was introduced for staff members who repeat any level. Language studies were limited to one language at a time. Language proficiency exams were reduced from three to two per year.

Between 1995 and 2005 the need for language-learning among staff was underlined by a number of General Assembly Resolutions. The General Assembly adopted resolutions on Multilingualism, which recognized that “genuine multilingualism promotes unity in diversity and international understanding” and therefore, “encourages United Nations staff members to continue to use training facilities to acquire and enhance proficiency in one or more official language of the United Nations”.