Symposium on the SDGs and reaching vulnerable populations, May 11-12, 2017

An oft-repeated aim of the Sustainable Development Goals is that they should “leave no one behind” and should concentrate on the most vulnerable populations. They should also encourage two-way communication, not just top-down solutions. But has anyone thought about the role of language in this process? Not enough people, according to the Study Group on Language and the United Nations, whose annual symposium for 2017 will address “Language, the SDGs, and Vulnerable Populations.”  The two-day symposium will take place on Thursday and Friday, May 11 and 12, at the UN Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York beginning at 9:00 a.m. on each day.

The symposium will feature some 25 papers delivered by development professionals, academics, and experts associated with the UN and UNESCO, on a range of issues, including the education of refugee children, migrant education, and problems of language in development. In addition to the USA, presenters will be drawn from a number of countries: Austria, Canada, France, Hungary, India, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. Keynote speakers will be Christine Hélot (University of Strasbourg) and François Grin (University of Geneva).

With its strong interest in issues of language discrimination and language equality, the Universal Esperanto Association is a founding partner in the principal organizer of the event, the Study Group on Language and the UN. Cooperating in the organization are the Center for Applied Linguistics (Washington DC) and the Centre for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems (CED). The symposium is underwritten by the Center for Applied Linguistics and ESF.

The symposium, which is open to UN personnel, NGOs, researchers and others, aims to raise the consciousness of those involved in development work about the need to understand and listen to the voices of those who are often unheard, and to promote research on these problems. Details on the symposium are available at

Lecture on persecution of Esperantists under Hitler and Stalin to follow symposium

German historian Ulrich Lins, author of Dangerous Language, newly published in English in a two-volume translation by Humphrey Tonkin, will give the fourth Tivadar Soros Lecture on May 12. His subject will be the persecution of Esperanto speakers under Hitler and Stalin, an episode in the histories of Germany and Russia that remains relatively unknown outside the Esperanto movement. Not only were the members of the Zamenhof family targeted for extermination by the Hitler regime, but the entire Esperanto movement in the Soviet Union was eliminated and many of its members were murdered or shipped off to Siberian prison camps. Lins and Tonkin hope that publication of the English translation will make this shameful story better known.

The lecture will take place at 4:00 p.m. on May 12, immediately following the symposium mentioned above. The location will be the same as that of the symposium: the UN Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York (44th Street and First Avenue). The lecture is free and open to the public.

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