Translators and Interpreters get UN recognition for their work in promoting understanding and diversity

The United Nations General Assembly has officially adopted a new resolution which recognises the role of professional translation in connecting nations and fostering peace, understanding and development. Resolution A/71/L.68 was approved without a vote, at the General Assembly’s 82nd plenary meeting of the 71st session. [1]

In the same resolution, the United Nations General Assembly also declared 30 September to be UN International Translation Day which will be celebrated across the entire UN network.

International Translation Day (ITD), celebrated on 30 September every year, is commemorated as the feast of Saint Jerome. Saint Jerome was a Roman priest and historian, who is recognised for his original translation of the bible from Hebrew into Latin. 

Official recognition of ITD has been one of longstanding missions of the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs/International Federation of Translators (FIT) since it was founded in 1953.

Many attempts have been made to seek official recognition of ITD especially from FIT’s partner, UNESCO. As recently as early 2015, a delegation attended the inaugural launch of the International Mother Language Day, with a letter signed by the FIT President, to the Secretary General of UNESCO.

Multilingualism was recognised by the UN General Assembly in 2015, for its importance in contributing to the achievement of goals of the United Nations.

This earlier resolution states that; “Multilingualism promotes unity in diversity and international understanding, and recognizing the importance of the capacity to communicate to the peoples of the world in their own languages, including in formats accessible to persons with disabilities.”[2].

The latest resolution complements the Nairobi Recommendation of 1976 by UNESCO, [3] by citing the value of translation of literary, scientific and technical works, as is referenced in the Nairobi recommendation, but also widens the scope to acknowledge the practical contribution language professionals make in furthering the cause of the United Nations, in maintaining peace and security, promoting human rights and the rule of law, and operational activities for sustainable development.[4] It recognises the role of professional translators and interpreters “in preserving clarity, a positive climate and productiveness in international discourse and interpersonal communication”.[1]

The resolution makes a point that; “respect for the world’s cultural and linguistic diversity is an essential prerequisite for the promotion, in the United Nations, of the spirit of openness, equity and dialogue.” [1]

FIT hopes that the celebration of ITD in the context of the UN resolution will highlight the “importance and the irreplaceability of professional translation in international human endeavours.”[5]

The resolution will also promote “the critical need for training the next generation of professional translators, interpreters and terminologists to meet this ever increasing demand as international interaction, cooperation and collaboration continue to grow”, FIT notes in an official statement.

FIT would like to remind us all in the profession, that the European Commission and the wider European Union will be observing and celebrating the ITD for the first time in conjunction with European Day of Languages (EDL). This was initiated following last year’s successful meeting between the DirectorGeneral for Translation (DGT) and Director General for Interpretation (DGI) and FIT President at the European Commission.

The theme for #ITD2017 is Translation and Diversity.

For more about FIT’s response to the UN GA Assembly announcement on the FIT website



[1] United Nations General Assembly. (2017, May 24). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 24 May 2017. Retrieved from United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/71/288

[2] United Nations General Assembly. (2015, Sept 11). Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 19 (A/69/19), chap. V. Retrieved from United Nations: https://undocs.org/A/RES/69/324

[3] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (1976, November 22). Recommendation on the Legal Protection of Translators and Translations and the Practical Means to improve the Status of Translators. Retrieved from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13089&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

[4] United Nations. (n.d.). The 4 pillars of the United Nations. Retrieved from United Nations: https://outreach.un.org/mun/content/4-pillars-united-nations

 [5] Federation Internationale des Traducteurs. (2017, May 25). ITD Adopted! United Nations recognises role of professional translation. Retrieved from Federation Internationale des Traducteurs/International Federation of Translators: http://www.fit-ift.org/itd-adopted/

Published: 13/06/2017