Expert meeting at UN aims to encourage more accurate use of place names

20 April 2004 – Some 150 experts, representing 22 linguistic or geographical divisions around the world, gathered today at United Nations Headquarters in New York to encourage the development of more consistency and accuracy in the use of place names, especially on maps and in gazetteers.

The UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names will meet for 10 days, during which they are expected to discuss and propose steps to standardize written forms of geographical names. This will include measures on how to Romanize place names being converted from languages that use non-Roman script.

William De Vries, Officer-in-Charge of the UN Statistics Division, said the last conference of experts on the issue, held in 2002 in Berlin, agreed to a set of recommendations that stressed that standardized place names form “part of a nation’s cultural and historical heritage.”

Mr. De Vries said consistent geographical names, especially when disseminated widely, helped the development of cartography, urban and regional planning, peacekeeping, tourism and commerce. They also strengthened the preservation of cultural heritage.

In a statement, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said consistent and accurate place names promote more effective communication worldwide.

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