Web Governance

Minimum standards for multilingualism of United Nations web sites

Since 1995, the General Assembly has been building a legislative core for multilingualism through resolutions A/RES/50/11 Documento PDF, A/RES/52/23 Documento PDF, A/RES/52/214 Documento PDF, A/RES/54/64 Documento PDF, A/RES/56/262 Documento PDF, A/RES/59/309 Documento PDF, A/RES/63/306 Documento PDF, A/RES/65/311 Documento PDF, A/RES/67/124 Documento PDF, and A/RES/67/292 Documento PDF.

In summary, these resolutions aim to eliminate the “disparity between the use of English and the use of the other five official languages” and “to ensure the full and equitable treatment of all the official languages.”

In order to achieve those goals and make information on the United Nations and its activities available to the widest audience, the Department of Public Information (DPI) has set the following minimum standards for UN Web multilingualism:

  1. Multilingualism should be incorporated from the very beginning of any website project and should not be considered as a mere translation exercise.
  2. Content authoring offices must ensure that content on their website is made available in all six of the Organization’s official languages —Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
  3. Use a language bar to allow the user to switch between language versions on the same site. As established in the Guidelines for Creating Websites at the UN (http://dpi.un.org/en/webguidelines/plan/multilingualism.shtml), the order of the 6 official UN languages bar should be Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish in their native form as (عربي 中文 English Français Русский Español).
  4. Pages cannot jumble up languages or contain news, Twitter RSS or any other feed content tools in languages other than the one selected in the language bar.
  5. Links to content that is not in the official language selected in the language bar should indicate the language of the target content. Those links should be kept to a minimum, so the page does not become a mere skeleton.
  6. As already established in the Guidelines for Creating Websites at the UN (http://dpi.un.org/en/webguidelines/plan/multilingualism.shtml) acronym use in the banner or logo is not recommended. Many acronyms exist only in English.
  7. Banners and logos should not contain letters as a design element, nor should design elements be used as letters since they are difficult to adapt across languages.
  8. Translations should keep the higher grammar standards of the official languages. Automatic translations or translations made by persons with only some knowledge of the language should be avoided.
  9. Footers and disclaimers should be in the official language selected in the language bar.
  10. Contact pages and queries should be directed to the substantive offices and indicate the language(s) in which they operate.
  11. All static content such as About Us, Background, Bios, Directory, Our Work, and Goals of the Organization should be available in the six languages.
  12. Pages should have a back-link to un.org in the respective language.