In 1959, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) paved the way for a small group of experts to meet and provide technical recommendations on standardizing geographical names at the national and international levels. This meeting gave rise to the United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names (UNCSGN) and to the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). The UNCSGN is held every five years, and UNGEGN meets between the Conferences to follow up the implementation of resolutions adopted by the Conferences and to ensure continuity of activities between Conferences. Today, UNGEGN is one of the seven standing expert bodies of ECOSOC, with over 400 members from over 100 countries.

Outside its meetings, UNGEGN functions through 24 geographical/linguistic divisions and through working groups, currently addressing issues of training courses, digital data files and gazetteers, romanization systems, country names, terminology, publicity and funding, and toponymic guidelines.

As fundamental to the need for global standardization of geographical names, UNGEGN promotes the recording of locally-used names reflecting the languages and traditions of a country. UNGEGN's goal is for every country to decide on its own nationally standardized names through the creation of national names authorities or recognized administrative processes. With the wide dissemination of the nationally standardized forms through gazetteers, atlases, web-based data bases, toponymic guidelines, etc., UNGEGN can promote the use of these names internationally. For each non-Roman alphabet or script this will be through the adoption and use of a single scientifically-based romanization system.

UNGEGN works for a common, international standardization of geographical names with the purpose of promoting international communication and understanding.

Areas of concern for UNGEGN are types of national standardization, the right of minority languages to use own language place-names, the question of exonyms, creation of place-name databases and gazetteers, national names of geographical locations outside of the nation’s borders, transcription into the roman alphabet (Romanization) of other writing systems, etc.

UNGEGN has held congresses every five years since 1967 on standardization of geographical names. In between congresses sessions are held at regular intervals where divisions and working groups present preliminary works.

This web site provides for UNGEGN a focal point for timely dissemination of information on its activities and of material on the standardization of geographical names.

As mentioned in UNGEGN's publicity brochure, geographers, linguists, cartographers and planners are among those specialists who develop the tools, harness the technology, provide the outreach, and share the belief that accurate and consistent use of a common framework of geographical names can offer considerable benefits to the world.