Catalan and international organizations present a draft resolution before ambassadors and NGOs of the UN Human Rights Council · The Mexican, Bolivian and Armenian delegations could defend the resolution in the next Council session in September, before the International Year of Languages comes to an end · The topics debated include the defence of linguistic diversity in the context of globalization and the need to think in terms of ‘an ecology of languages’.
A major milestone in the promotion and defence of linguistic diversity was reached on Wednesday 18 June. Representatives of EBLUL, CIEMEN, International PEN and Linguamón-Casa de les Llengües presented a proposal for a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights at the headquarters of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The event, entitled ‘Linguistic Rights to enhance Human Rights', was attended by approximately forty ambassadors and their representatives and NGO representatives who took part in the eighth session of the UNHRC between 2 and 18 June. Aureli Argemí, President of CIEMEN, said that the level of attendance was "a real success". The total number of ambassadors in the Human Rights Council in 47.
Argemí also stressed the participation of the representative for Mexico, who said that his country could "lead" the approval process for the resolution on linguistic rights that will be debated by the UNHRC. This show of support from Mexico is in addition to that of Bolivia and Armenia, who co-sponsored Wednesday's event.
The race is now on to attract further support for a resolution on linguistic rights before the last UNHRC session of the International Year of Languages in September. As Aureli Argemí put it, "we need to keep up the hard work to make sure the Council agrees to put forward a resolution", while acknowledging that the task ahead would be difficult because so many states are insensitive to the issues at stake.
Wednesday's event was organized by EBLUL, at the initiative of CIEMEN, and with the support and participation of PEN International and Linguamón.
The text of the proposed resolution is available here.
The contents of the speeches
Neasa Ní Chinnéide, President of EBLUL, opened the meeting with a call "to put pressure on Governments and the Human Rights Council". She also stressed the appropriateness of lobbying for a linguistic rights resolution during the International Year of Languages.
Josep M. Terricabras, of International PEN, emphasized "the need to distinguish linguistic rights from cultural rights". Aureli Argemí outlined the work that has been done since the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights was approved in 1996 in terms of seeking support from "parliaments, institutions and organizations" in order to lend "a basis, credibility and guarantees" to the process of recognizing linguistic rights.
Finally, Antoni Mir, of Linguamón, talked about the state of linguistic diversity around the world, warning that half of the languages spoken today could disappear within the next few years.
The debate that followed the speeches was rich in contributions from the audience, and a number of issues relating to the proposed resolution were discussed. Some participants stressed the need to defend the identity of peoples in an increasingly globalized world, as well as the aptness of addressing languages from an ecological perspective: the world is grounded on linguistic diversity and protecting linguistic equality is vital if that diversity is to be maintained.