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The Institut d’Estudis Catalans (IEC) was set up in 1907 for the purpose of promoting and carrying out academic and research activities in different fields of knowledge, focusing especially on knowledge of the Catalan situation. IEC is an institution of reference for Catalan society and acts as the Catalan language academy.

According to its founding objectives, IEC is devoted to the study of cultural heritage (documentary resources, legal, historic, artistic, ethnographic, linguistic and so on) and natural heritage (botanical, maritime, zoological, medical and the like) within its scope of action, which comprises the Catalan-speaking territories.

In addition to the specific functions and the responsibility for the welfare of Catalan society attributed to IEC since its foundation, and in this context, the UNESCO Chair in Linguistic and Cultural Diversity focuses its activity on human linguistic and cultural diversity and, therefore, on the maintenance, revitalization and possible standardization of endangered languages and the cultural practices on which they are based. Accordingly, the Chair provides a means of international projection for the IEC in terms of cooperation with developing countries—or minoritized communities—for the purpose of linguistic and cultural preservation.

With the aim of promoting an integrated system of research, education and information activities in the field of languages and education, an agreement was signed by UNESCO and the IEC to create the UNESCO Chair in Linguistic and Cultural Diversity.

This agreement has continued according to the procedure established for its regular renewal by the international institution and the host institution.

During this period, the UNESCO Chair on Languages and Education has promoted and cooperated with projects and activities focused on ethno-education, with the objective of creating school syllabuses based on the language, culture and inherent values of those to whom it is addressed: communities lacking these values where they should be most respected, that is, in the school system.

The UNESCO Chair has thus taken part in projects related to aspects that the official system does not foresee, either because the law does not take them into account or because it has not been enforced.

The 25 February 2012 the UNESCO and the host institution agreed to convert the UNESCO Chair in Languages and Education into the UNESCO Chair in Linguistic and Cultural Diversity.

Over the years, the UNESCO Chair has developed all kinds of different activities. It has organised training courses, lecture series, conferences and international seminars, research and cooperation projects, it has taken part in symposia and other international forums It has participated in and monitored field studies and linguistic revitalization processes, ant it has also produced its own publications and contributed to other collective works.

The UNESCO Chair stresses one of the UNESCO primary interests: promoting linguistic and cultural diversity as a peace-making instrument and the UNESCO programme of action for Indigenous peoples.