List of official languages by institution

English language French language Spanish language

This is a list of official languages for major international and regional institutions. Different organizations sometimes refer to their principal languages of administration and communication as "working languages", while others refer to these as being "official". No distinction is made here, except where an organization itself, distinguishes between its official and working languages.

English and French are often regarded as the symbolic official languages, although the former has gained prominence in recent years.[1]


According to a recent study of multilingualism in 13 major international organizations (Commonwealth, ICC, ILO, IMF, IOC, IPU, ITU, OECD, UN, UPU, WB, WHO, and WTO), English an official language in almost all (12). This is followed by French (10); Spanish (6); and Arabic, Chinese, and Russian (3 each). Interpretation is offered in Japanese and German as well for 2 organizations.[2]

The six official languages of the United Nations reflects the languages of the permanent members of the Security Council (Chinese, English, French, and Russian), in addition to Arabic and Spanish. Another study found that the percentage of each language used at each United Nations meeting in 2010 was distributed as follows: English (98%), French (87%), Spanish (34%), Russian (10%), Arabic (7%), and Chinese (3%).[3]

The following is a list of major international and inter-governmental organizations.

Institutions Languages
Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (ATS) English, French, Spanish, and Russian.
Bank for International Settlements (BIS) English, French, German, and Spanish.
Commonwealth of Nations English
International Criminal Court (ICC) Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.[4] (English and French are working languages.[4])
International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
International Energy Agency (IEA) English and French
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) English, French and Spanish.
International Labour Organization (ILO/OIT) English, French and Spanish.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) English (with simultaneous interpretation into Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian and Spanish).
International Olympic Committee (IOC/CIO) French and English (with simultaneous interpretation provided for Arabic, German, Russian, and Spanish).
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) English, French and Russian.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) English, French and Spanish.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) English, French and Spanish.
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) French and English (Conferences also have simultaneous interpretation into Arabic and Spanish.)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/OCDE) English and French.
Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) Spanish and Portuguese.
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC/OCI) Arabic, English and French.
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) English, French, and | Spanish.
United Nations (UN/ONU) Under the Charter, the official languages are Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish as well as Arabic which was added in 1973.[5]See also: Official languages of the United Nations.
Universal Postal Union (UPU) French (official) and English (working). Other languages translated: Arabic, Chinese, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
World Bank (WB) English (Conferences also have simultaneous interpretation into Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.)
World Customs Organization English, French, and Spanish (with translation offered into Arabic and Russian).
World Hindi Secretariat Hindi
World Health Organization (WHO) Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
World Trade Organization (WTO/OMC) English, French and Spanish.


The following is a list of major regional organizations.

Institutions Languages
African Development Bank English, French
African Union (AU/UA) Arabic, French, English, Portuguese and Spanish. See also: Languages of the African Union
Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) Arabic
Arab League Arabic
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) English
Asian Development Bank (ADB) English
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) English
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) English (working language), Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese.[6]
Benelux Dutch and French.[7]
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) English, French, Dutch and Spanish.
Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) English
Central American Common Market (CACM) Spanish
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) English, French and Portuguese.
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Russian
Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) Portuguese
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) Arabic
Council of Europe English and French.
East African Community (EAC) English, French and Swahili.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS/CEDEAO) English, French and Portuguese.
Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) Russian
Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Russian
European Space Agency (ESA) English, French and German.
European Union (EU/UE) English, French and German (working languages) of some internal EU bodies, such as the European Commission. See also: Languages of the European Union
Group of Seven (G7), formerly the Group of Eight (G8) English, French, German, Italian, and Japanese
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Arabic
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) English
Islamic Development Bank (IDB) French
Francophonie Arabic, with French and English as working languages.
Mercosur Portuguese and Spanish.
New Development Bank (NDB) English
Nordic Investment Bank (NDB) English
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) English, Spanish and French.
Nordic Council (NC) Danish, Norwegian and Swedish (working languages)
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO/OTAN) English and French.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) English
Organization of American States (OAS/OEA) Spanish, English, Portuguese and French. See also: The official languages of the Organization of American States
Pacific Islands Forum English
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Chinese and Russian.
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) English
South Pacific Commission (SPC) English and French.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) English, French and Portuguese (working languages)[8]
Union of South American Nations (Unasul-Unasur) Dutch, English, Portuguese and Spanish.


Institutions Languages
Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) Russian. See also: Name in official languages of the members
League of Nations English and French.
Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) Czech, German, Polish, and Russian.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History: From the Mid-19th Century to the Present Day. Palgrave Macmillan. 2016. p. 559.
  2. ^ Coulmas, Florian (2017). An Introduction to Multilingualism: Language in a Changing World. Oxford University Press. p. 121.
  3. ^ Fernández-Vítores, David. "Spanish in the United Nations System" (PDF). Instituto Cervantes.
  4. ^ a b "Article 50 of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  5. ^ "Basic Facts About The United Nations", By United Nations (2004) ISBN 92-1-100936-7
  6. ^ "The ASEAN Charter" (PDF). ASEAN.
  8. ^ "Consolidated text of the Treaty of the Southern African Development Community, as amended". SADC. Retrieved 1 October 2011.