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Master Thesis

Les langues de travail à l’Assemblée générale, au Conseil de sécurité et au Secrétariat général des Nations Unies : expression d’un multilatéralisme raté au sein de l’Organisation pendant la guerre froide

Abstract : The United Nations has six working languages in almost all of its principal organs. However, this was not always the case and the evolution of this language regime spans the period from 1946 to 1980. It is therefore interesting to note that this evolution fits perfectly into the context of the Cold War. It is therefore difficult not to see a correlation when we know that "international organisations are also the reflection of arbitrations and power relations" (Michèle Rioux, Chapter 3. Les organisations internationales, in Traité de relations internationales, Presses de Sciences Po, 2013, page 86) of the surrounding state society. Thus, we ask how the multilingualism present in certain UN institutions is both a factor and a consequence of failed multilateralism within the United Nations during the Cold War. Although few scholars have worked on the specific topic of UN multilingualism, some have devoted their research to parallel topics. In this sense, we know today that the rise of languages to global prominence is largely influenced by the importance of the states using them (Jean-Marie Le Breton, "Réflexions anglophiles sur la géopolitique de l'anglais", Herodote, n°1, 15-4, 2004, p. 1-23). But conversely, idioms also have an effect on the way we see the world, especially from a legal point of view (Thierry Rambaud, Introduction au droit comparé, Presses Universitaires de France, 2014). We believe that the multilingualism of the United Nations has consequences for its effectiveness (Jesús BaigorriI Jalón and Anne Barr, Interpreters at the United Nations: a history, 1st ed., Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2004) and that the Cold War had repercussions on the Organisation (Jean-Baptiste Duroselle and André Kaspi, Histoire des relations internationales. Tome 2, Armand Colin, 2017). In this sense, the link between multilingualism and multilateralism seems obvious. However, from a UN perspective, this thesis demonstrates both the role played by Member States in the evolution of the Organisation's language regime, in particular through the influence of the United States (Chapter I). But also the importance of the historical context in the establishment of this same regime (Chapter II). Finally, beyond the hold of multilateralism on the Organisation, it is also highlighted that multilingualism has a major responsibility in the non-efficiency of the Organisation which is so much decried today, but which was already visible during the Cold War (Chapter III). Thus, although the United Nations defines multilingualism as a tool "promoting tolerance [...], as well as greater efficiency, effectiveness and commitment" (Coordinator for Multilingualism,, accessed on 3 January 2021); it appears that the de jure multilingualism, as well as the de facto monolingualism, present in the General Assembly, the Security Council and the General Secretariat are both a consequence of the geopolitics in place during the Cold War, but also a factor of the difficult implementation of negotiations within the Organisation. The UN language regime remains more of a political tool for Member States than a real advantage in establishing inter-state communications.
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Master Thesis
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Submitted on : Friday, July 16, 2021 - 1:56:39 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, October 17, 2021 - 3:40:49 AM
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Léna Sylvestre. Les langues de travail à l’Assemblée générale, au Conseil de sécurité et au Secrétariat général des Nations Unies : expression d’un multilatéralisme raté au sein de l’Organisation pendant la guerre froide. Histoire. 2021. ⟨dumas-03288698⟩



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