CLARIN and the Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each of these Goals comes with a number of specific targets to achieve by 2030.

CLARIN is a European Research Infrastructure Consortium ( ), and as such it is primarily oriented towards research-related goals. However, institutional and financial support that it receives from the European Union and the participating member states makes CLARIN not a passive bystander, but an active participant in various public policies. As such, CLARIN embraces the SDGs and contributes, within the limits of its role as a research infrastructure, to achieving many of them.

Three of the Sustainable Development Goals (4, 8 and 9), related to infrastructure and innovation, education and sustainable economic growth, are at the heart of CLARIN missions, and are directly promoted and worked towards by CLARIN. Moreover, CLARIN contributes to nine further goals.

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of CLARIN missions

Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation (Goal 9)

The goal of enhancing scientific research, upgrading technological capabilities and encouraging innovation (target 9.5) is at the very heart of CLARIN’s mission.

CLARIN is a digital infrastructure aimed at enabling sustainable cross-border access to language resources and tools. Although CLARIN is addressed primarily to the academic audience, some CLARIN resources and tools are also available on an Open Access basis (accessible and re-usable free of charge by anyone for any purpose), which makes them attractive also to the industrial actors, thereby contributing to the economic development (target 9.1).

The availability of CLARIN resources and tools facilitate the development of new language-related applications and the improvement of existing ones, e.g. in the field of machine translation, knowledge extraction, automatic text summarisation or machine learning. These technologies are essential to the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which nowadays is central to inclusive and sustainable industrialisation (target 9.2), and a historic opportunity for rapid development of some national economies.

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (Goal 4)

Language resources and tools, such as those hosted by CLARIN, are of use for many disciplines in the humanities. They are particularly relevant for philologies, linguistics and cultural studies, but also e.g. for history or sociology. Many of these disciplines are very heavily represented in higher education, and are popular fields of study. A sustainable and easy-to-use infrastructure with high quality tools and data, some of which are also available on an Open Access basis, contributes significantly to increasing the number of adults with relevant skills (including technical) for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship (target 4.4). The fact that CLARIN resources and tools are available online via a distributed network of centres also contributes to ensuring equal access for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities (targets 4.5 and 4.A). Wide availability of digital data for educational use (not only at universities) also contributes to the development of ‘numeracy’, digital literacy (target 4.6).

Furthermore, multilingual and multicultural character of CLARIN data and resources promote a culture of global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development (target 4.7).

Finally, since many students of the humanities are bound to become teachers, it is particularly important to equip them with digital skills that they will then transmit to the next generation. CLARIN resources and tools can be used to develop such skills, thereby contributing to increasing the supply of qualified teachers (target 4.C).

Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all (Goal 8)

CLARIN tools and resources are invaluable for the development of new language processing technologies. In data-intensive industries access to very large volumes of high-quality data is of primary importance. The most important tech companies are not based in Europe, consequently their activities aimed at acquiring huge amounts of data do not always meet European standards. CLARIN offers a more sustainable alternative, emphasising the quality of data (which are accompanied with metadata and annotations) over the quantity.

Therefore, the CLARIN infrastructure has the potential of boosting productivity of the IT sector in its member states, through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added services (target 8.2). By making high-quality language data and tools available also to the private sector in participating countries, CLARIN supports decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation (target 8.3).

Secondly, by providing data such as large collections of language-based public sector information (e.g. laws and regulations) which can be used to develop and evaluate machine translation or automatic text simplification technologies, CLARIN contributes to the promotion of secure working environment for migrant workers, which may be unable to fully understand instructions and rules in the local language (target 8.8; see also Goal 1).

Finally, also due to the fact that CLARIN tools and resources may be used for development and evaluation of machine translation technology, CLARIN contributes to the promotion of tourism, local culture and products (target 8.9).

Sustainable Development Goals that CLARIN contributes to 

Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies (Goal 16)

Among data hosted by CLARIN centres, a significant part comes from parliaments and other public institutions (public sector information). By providing sustainable access to such data in structured, annotated and unaltered form, adapted for automatic processing (easily searchable and retrievable), CLARIN contributes to:

  • ensuring public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms (target 16.10);
  • developing accountable and transparent institutions (target 16.6);
  • ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative (target 16.7);
  • promoting democracy and the rule of law at national and international levels (target 16.3).

Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11)

One of the targets defined by UN for this goal is defined as follows: “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage” (target 11.4).

CLARIN focuses on a key element of human culture: language. There are over 7,000 known living languages in the world. Since language is a cultural artifact and part of cultural heritage, considerable efforts are made by CLARIN to preserve language data documentation (also concerning rare and endangered languages) and prevent languages from disappearing. By doing so, CLARIN contributes to protecting linguistic diversity and cultural heritage.

Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development (Goal 17)

CLARIN is an international infrastructure, coordinating and promoting cooperation between its members on access to science and scientific data, technology and innovation. Originally pan-European in scope, CLARIN has since been joined by an consortium from South Africa (SADiLaR), in the spirit of north-south international cooperation (target 17.6).

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (Goal 5)

CLARIN provides language resources and tools primarily for academia. Women are particularly strongly represented among the CLARIN’s primary target group – researchers and students of philologies, linguistics, history and other humanities. Therefore, CLARIN contributes to enhancing the use of digital technology to promote the empowerment of women (target 5.B).

Moreover, language resources and tools that CLARIN provides access to are an invaluable source for empirical gender studies regarding differences and similarities in the use of language by men and women. In particular, corpora of parliamentary data can be used to discover a wealth of information on the language used by female politicians, thereby contributing to ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life (target 5.5) [see Fišer, D and Pahor de Maiti, K 2020 Voices of the Parliament. Modern Languages Open, 2020(1): 46. DOI:]. The linguistic information extracted from parliamentary corpora and other resources may also help in spotting gender inequalities and, in the long run, contribute to strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality (target 5.C).

Other goals

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

In developed countries, the poor and the vulnerable are often first-generation immigrants, oftentimes native speakers of under-documented languages. Difficulties to speak and understand the local language are probably the biggest obstacle on their way up the social ladder. Through providing resources and tools for the development, training and evaluation of machine translation, information extraction, automatic text summarisation or automatic text simplification, as well as e-learning and linguistic aid technologies, CLARIN may help bridge this gap, thereby:

  • facilitating access of the most vulnerable to basic services and new technology (Goal 1, target 1.4);
  • contribute to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education (Goal 3, target 3.7) among these populations; and consequently
  • promoting social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status (Goal 10, target 10.2).

In addition to this, language technology (especially machine translation, speech synthesis, automatic text summarisation/simplification) allows for more rapid circulation of information (such as official warnings or new sanitary policies) among migrant groups and minorities, and thereby contributes to:

  • reducing their exposure and to extreme events, economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters, especially concerning the most vulnerable (Goal 1, target 1.5);

  • strengthening the states’ capacity for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks (Goal 3, target 3.D);

  • facilitating orderly, safe and responsible migration and mobility of people (Goal 10, target 10.7);

  • ensuring that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development (Goal 12, target 12.8);

  • improving education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning, especially among migrants who were forced to leave their countries because of climate change (Goal 13, target 13.3).