Standardization of geographical names – why does it matter?
In today’s digital world, standardized geographical names are vital. They help us find our way in society and they also help us organize the world we live in. They also play a key role in our efforts to achieve sustainable development, providing fundamental channels of communication, facilitating cooperation among local, national and international organizations. We also need standardized geographical names in emergency situations. Without them, it can be challenging to respond to crises.
This month, the “new” United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) will convene for its 2019 Session from 29 April to 3 May 2019 at UN Headquarters in New York. The session, organized by UN DESA’s Statistics Division, brings together over 150 experts from national naming authorities and academia to discuss strategies and methodologies by which the standardization of geographical names throughout the world can be advanced for the benefit of all citizens, Governments and non-governmental organizations.
The Session aims to increase awareness of geographical names standardization, share the benefits that names provide to the daily functions in national economies and highlight its role as an enabler in preserving cultural heritage. It is hoped that delegates will be further empowered to strengthen their efforts to collect, manage and disseminate geographical names and forge partnerships and alliances to advance geographical names standardization.
The Group of Experts has had a robust work programme spanning over 50 years, 30 sessions and 11 conferences and many significant milestones. In November 2017, the group was dismantled and recreated with the same name and new working methods. The 2019 session therefore heralds the first session of the new body, with a new agenda and over 90 papers for information and discussion, covering topics such as toponymic training, place names supporting sustainable development, toponymic data files and gazetteers, romanization systems, exonyms, geographical names as cultural heritage, and toponymic guidelines for map and other editors for international use. In keeping with its new standing the group will be formally launching its new website and a prototype of the world geographical names database web GIS application.
The week’s activities include, special presentations, side events featuring working group and divisional meetings, an orientation session for new attendees and special workshops on “Linked Data Developments” and “The Unanswered Questions Relation to Indigenous Toponymy”.
The meetings will be streamed live via UN Web TV.