Are the UN's Sustainable Development Goals Possible Without Language Translation?

Are the UN's Sustainable Development Goals Possible Without Language Translation?

In 2015, the UN unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a plan for global stability based around seventeen goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. The goals focus on aims like ending poverty, improving the global infrastructure and economy, and protecting the planetary ecosystem. All these issues, the UN argues, are inextricably linked and must be addressed if the global population is to continue rising.

The SDGs represent the UN's agenda for everyone on Earth. So why haven't they been translated into every language on Earth? The UN agrees that everyone who will be impacted by this document — meaning, in theory, the whole world — should have the right to read it in their native language. Reading in a secondary language is damaging to comprehension and can lead to harmful misunderstandings. So how available are translation services on the ground, in development initiatives around the world?

At a recent symposium, researchers and UN aid workers discussed some of the barriers to widespread translation. Not every language translates naturally or easily to English. The Lusoga language is highly figurative and indirect, and relies heavily on nonverbal gestures, making it a particularly difficult language both to translate to and to translate from.

Cultural differences aren't insurmountable roadblocks; they can be valued and overcome through understanding. That's why translation services are core to the UN's mission.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals web site:

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