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UNESCO: Partnership with ICANN on Linguistic Diversity

(Dec. 29, 2009) The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently agreed to cooperate so as to promote diversity of languages and scripts on the Internet. The two organizations signed an agreement on December 10, 2009, that is designed to benefit many language groups. UNESCO will be providing expertise to ICANN so that it can continue to expand the use of non-Latin scripts for Internet domain names. (UNESCO and ICANN Sign Partnership Agreement to Promote Linguistic Diversity on Internet, UNESCO website, Dec. 10, 2009, available at
.) That practice was begun on November 16, 2009, when ICANN announced a “fast track” program for applications from around the world for IDNs (internationalized domain names) in Arabic, Chinese, and other scripts. (Press Release, ICANN, IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process Launch (Nov. 16, 2009), available at

The plan is for Internet addresses in a large number of languages with different scripts to be available to users. In addition, UNESCO will encourage other U.N. agencies to help less-developed nations participate in the IDN project. (UNESCO website, supra.)

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said that UNESCO had long wanted to develop IDNs and that the “internet must be linguistically diverse so that all language groups can harness its unique potential.” She added that with the new agreement, “UNESCO and ICANN will work together to bring more people into the information network.” (Id.)