UN Group of Experts, Conference on Geographical Names conclude meetings with model for new organization

The eleventh United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names and the thirtieth session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names concluded on 17 and 18 August, at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

A total of 278 delegates from 67 Member States and observer organizations came together over a total of 10 days and decided on national and international geographical names standardization, a new organization structure and working methods, and a strengthened substantive relationship with the Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management.

Central to the eleventh Conference was the draft resolution to be presented to the Economic and Social Council on a new organizational structure of the Group of Experts and the Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, merging and streamlining the two bodies into a new body with biennial five-day meetings.  The President of the eleventh Conference, F.J. Ormeling, stated:  “It makes me especially proud that this conference has achieved notable results, such as defining a new structure for the future, a structure in which all Member State delegations have confidence, a structure with more efficient procedures and better adapted to future requirements.”

Geographical names are so central to person-to-person narration that effective communication cannot be achieved without them.  In addition, standardized geographical names are crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which cannot be monitored without solid and reliable data on geographical names.

This task calls for closer coordination with the United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management.  Mr. Ormeling underscored this in his closing remarks:  “This conference has been able to define a fruitful relationship between UNGEGN [United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names] and UN-GGIM [United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management], that answers the expectations of the United Nations Statistical Division and has started to implement this relationship through reciprocal presentations on mandates and operation modes.”

Another major result was the passing of a resolution with a United Nations-endorsed conversion system from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet.  The Member States that supported the resolution can now continue the implementation with a clear United Nations mandate.

The Conference celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with an exhibition, considered some 180 working papers and conference reports and held six panel discussions and 13 special presentations that stimulated insightful questions and comments leading to new and strengthened synergies among represented organizations.

The session ended with the Group of Experts adopting decisions which are to be brought to the attention of the Economic and Social Council.  The decisions ranged from resolutions passed at the eleventh Conference and the establishment of a new task team for oral languages.

Photo: Raphael Frey

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