CFP: Symposium on Language & the Sustainable Development Goals

A Symposium on Language and the Sustainable Development Goals

Organized by:
The Study Group on Language at the United Nations in cooperation with
The Centre for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems
and the Center for Applied Linguistics 


Date: Thursday, April 21, 2016.  1:00-5:00pm
Location: Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
Deadline for proposals: February 29, 2016.

The following information was provided by symposium organizers. Find our more on their website:

Proposals for short 10- or 20-minute presentations or panel discussions should focus on the following themes:

  • Language & Poverty
  • Language & Healthcare
  • Language, Education & Gender
  • Language, Infrastructure & Inclusivity
  • Language, Sustainability & Environment
  • Language & Global Partnerships

For more information and examples of more specific prompts, contact sustainabilityandlanguage [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sustainable Development Goals:

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals approved by the UN General Assembly ( for the period 2015-2030 replace the eight Millennium Development Goals that covered the period 2000-2015. They aim to engage not only governments, but “all people, everywhere,” at all levels of civil society. Carrying them out will require active, two-way, democratic communication, in a multiplicity of languages. Furthermore, several of the Goals imply direct attention to issues of language. Study and research on language in relation to economic and social development is a well-established field that does not always receive the attention it merits. What does this field have to contribute to the realization of the SDGs? What linguistic obstacles stand in the way of their successful realization.


If you are interested in participating, submit a one paragraph description of your planned 10- or 20-minute presentation or panel discussion on the topic to by February 29. Once accepted, a more detailed description of the presentation or panel should be sent by March 31.

Specific prompts include but are not limited to:

Language & Poverty

  • How does language factor in poverty, socioeconomic identity, and economic mobility?
  • What communicative issues have arisen in the implementation of sustainable and healthy food systems, including production, consumption, and security?
  • How can language policy aid in the reduction of inequality, especially as it relates to the treatment of linguistic minorities?

Language & Healthcare

  • What initiatives have been successful or not so successful in administering healthcare to individuals who do not speak the local language in cities, refugee camps, and elsewhere?

Language, Education & Gender

  • What role do monoglot ideologies play in preventing access to education, especially for adult learners? How can larger scale education on the realities of multilingualism impact adults who are isolated or dependant on younger family members for access to resources?
  • Do access to language education and sociolinguistic issues involving home-language usage disproportionately affect women and girls? If so, how do these issues prevent gender equality?
  • In what ways do language-of-instruction and language-education policies affect career-readiness?

Language, Infrastructure & Inclusivity

  • How does media discourse impact community organizing attempts by underserved communities (often tied to racialization), as in the case of Flint?
  • How can processes of industrialization and infrastructure-building leverage linguistic and cultural heterogeneity as an asset to promote a more inclusive and innovative future?
  • In order to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, what linguistic infrastructure must be available to residents so that all, including those who only speak minority languages, may participate in helping achieve those goals?

Language, Sustainability & Environment

  • When educating consumers, manufacturers and retailers about sustainable consumption and production patterns, what cultural and linguistic hurdles will be faced? How might these hurdles affect legislation and enforcement of sustainability issues.
  • Residents of areas under the jurisdiction of environmental legislation sometimes feel an infringement on their personal freedoms, often leading to costly and ineffective top-down enforcement protocols. Could a more inclusive atmosphere of communication lead to better local enforcement?

Language & Global Partnerships

  • The implementation of a global partnership for sustainable development requires in-depth two-way communications, many times through translation. How have one-way translation methods for the dissemination of policy failed to adequately apply global policy to local needs.

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