Donostia Protocol launched to give Europe's language communities a tool for equality

More than 100 organizations representing 26 languages back the document · The Protocol is heir to the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, signed in 1996 in Barcelona

Over one hundred organizations working for linguistic diversity and the rights of speakers of all languages of Europe have signed the Protocol to Ensure Language Rights, or Donostia Protocol, which was unveiled Saturday 17th in the Basque city of Donostia (San Sebastián). The Protocol includes a list of measures in order to guarantee those rights, and it also sets a series of indicators to check whether those rights are being respected or not.

The Donostia Protocol's three stated goals are "to declare that guaranteeing language diversity and ensuring language development are keys to peaceful coexistence," "to create an effective instrument for language equality and the cultivation of languages in unfavourable situations" and "to ensure that the language community is the actor in this process and assert that society’s involvement guarantees fair play."

The fruit of a two-year work by European civil society groups, the Donostia Protocol also seeks to updates the principles of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, which was signed in Barcelona in 1996. In this respect, the new text declares itself heir to the Barcelona Declaration.

The new tool has been developed on the initiative of Kontseilua —an umbrella association for pro-Basque language groups. Six international organizations —CIEMEN, ECMI, ELEN, Linguapax International, PEN International and UNPO— have taken part in the Protocol's Steering Committee. The text has been written by a Scientific Committee made up of experts in linguistics and law. More than one hundred organizations representing 26 linguistic communities have signed it.

CIEMEN President Emeritus Aureli Argemí was given the floor to speak before more than 600 people as the Protocol was being unveiled in San Sebastián's Kursaal on December 17th. One of the 1996 Barcelona Declaration promoters, Argemí welcomed the fact that the Protocol was "taking over" the work done since then, and expressed his hope that the new initiative "would culminate in the full recognition of linguistic rights [and be] capable of finally establishing linguistic coexistence and peace in our world."