Supporting Strategies - Language services and multilingualism

Language services and multilingualism


During its 224th Session, the Council considered actions taken by the Secretariat towards the development of a draft multilingualism strategy. It was agreed that the strategy’s scope should include language services, human resources, strategic communication, stakeholder mobilization (promotion of multilingualism as a universal value, including through partnerships) and the fulfilment of organizational responsibilities through coordination among the Secretariat, the Council and Member States. To be successful, the strategy would require adequate resources and new work methods and technologies to gain efficiencies, including in documents management and production.


Enhancing the efficiency of language and conference services


Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Secretariat continued to host virtual meetings of the Council, its Standing Committees and the Air Navigation Commission while providing full interpretation services. Owing to the seamless and effective collaboration between language, conference and information technology services, the Secretariat was able to design a “hybrid/hub” conference solution enabling physical and remote participation in meetings with full interpretation services, in a secure setting. At the 2021 International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications (IAMLADP), ICAO proved itself as a leader in this area, sharing experiences and lessons learned with other United Nations agencies and international organizations. ICAO’s participation in the forum provided an important opportunity for benchmarking, quality assurance and the adoption of leading practices.


Translation and programme support services were reorganized to ensure business continuity in the teleworking environment. Owing to these efforts, the Report of the Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) and its attachments were translated into all working languages at short notice, as matter of urgency. In addition, an exceptionally high number of communications with States and electronic bulletins were translated, enabling States to access critical resources needed to respond to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in a timely and efficient manner.


Translation, interpretation and publication statistics


Translation, interpretation and publication statistics for 2021 are provided below:


Words translated:​10.4 million (53 per cent translated internally, 47 per cent outsourced)
​Words budgeted:​8.6 million
Sittings interpreted:​1 048 (versus 646 sittings in 2020)​
Saleable publications and new editions issued:​45


Efforts were focused on providing translation, interpretation and editorial services to support ICAO’s COVID-19 response, the implementation of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS), and the High-level Conference on COVID-19.


Language Services Management System (LSMS) Project


As part of its Language Services Management System (LSMS) Project, ICAO reviewed and adopted a solution for language services management developed by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) at United Nations Headquarters. The solution is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud and consists of three components: a computer-assisted translation tool (eLUNa), a workflow engine (gDoc 2.0) and an interpretation management tool (eAPG). The implementation of eLUNa will start in May 2022, while legacy systems will be used to support the 41st Session of the Assembly. As for gDoc 2.0 and eAPG, implementation will start in early 2023.


International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publication (IAMLADP)


From 14 to 18 June 2021, ICAO participated in the virtual IAMLADP 2021 meeting, which brought together managers from over 80 international organizations providing language and conference services. Discussions focused on the swift efforts of member organizations in ensuring the continuity of conference and language services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including: the rapid introduction of new working methods, tools and procedures; the shift to fully remote translation services; the management of conference facilities to meet physical-distancing requirements and other safety protocols; and the organization of large-scale virtual and hybrid meetings with remote interpretation. Despite its myriad of challenges, the pandemic had provided an opportunity for member organizations to discover new possibilities, master new skills and learn valuable lessons. Participants highlighted the importance of the Pan-African Masters Consortium in Interpretation and Translation (PAMCIT), which aims to establish a network of centres of excellence in Africa to produce highly-qualified translators and interpreters for Africa and beyond.


From 19 to 23 April 2021, ICAO participated in the virtual 2021 Joint International Annual Meeting on Computer-Assisted Translation and Terminology (JIAMCATT), the technical offshoot of IAMLADP. Discussions covered topics such as machine translation and post-editing, and collaborative and cloud-based tools and platforms for computer-assisted translation. Updates were provided on language technology projects under way at member organizations.

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