[lg policy] FW: Report on UNESCO debate on indigenous & endangered languages

Don Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Sat Oct 24 15:22:16 UTC 2009

FYI (from the ILAT list)

From: Indigenous Languages and Technology [mailto:ILAT at LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU]
On Behalf Of Dave Pearson
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:34 PM
Subject: [ILAT] Report on UNESCO debate on indigenous and endangered


Following a proposal by Venezuela, UNESCO is considering whether there is a
need for a standard-setting instrument such as a declaration, a convention
or a recommendation for the protection of indigenous and endangered
languages. UNESCO was unable to raise the extra-budgetary funds to call a
meeting of experts and so had to produce the report on their own. Section IV
of the preliminary
onventions/feasibility/at_download/file>  study raises questions of purpose,
scope, functions and principles that will need to be addressed before a
decision can be taken. The proposed two-year observation period 2010-2011 is
really a delaying tactic because there are not enough funds to develop a
standard-setting instrument. 


This report was debated in Paris last week at the Culture Commission of
UNESCO's General Conference. This topic caused more debate than any other in
the Culture Commission last week, with 45 nations and one observer (SIL)
taking the floor to address it. Everybody, without exception, spoke of the
importance and urgency of acting because languages are disappearing. Some
(Hungary, Venezuela, Chile & Ethiopia ) called for the UN General Assembly
to declare an International <http://donosborn.org/blog/?p=23>  Decade of
Languages and Multilingualism. If a decade is to be declared there will need
to be some lobbying done in New York. Many  praised UNESCO's Interactive
<http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=00206>  Atlas of the Word's
Languages in Danger. 


Regarding the need for a standard-setting instrument, some (Argentina &
Cuba) said put it on the agenda for the 36th General Conference in 2011,
others (India, Sweden & St. Lucia) said hold an expert meeting soon and some
(Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba & Venezuela) even offered to pay for it. These
four nations also called for UNESCO to appoint somebody to act as a focal
point to coordinate actions for protecting endangered languages.  UNESCO has
agreed to this and appointed Mauro Rosi. Some (Poland, Venezuela, Mali,
Mexico, Brazil & South Africa) called for a legally-binding convention,
while others (Cuba, Australia & Tanzania) preferred a more advisory
instrument like a declaration. Still others (Austria, Germany, Japan, Korea,
Greece, Monaco, Norway, Spain, Russia & USA) said we need to study how we
can improve existing conventions before creating new ones. South Africa
reiterated the call in the Bamako
<http://www.acalan.org/eng/confeven/forum/commitment.pdf>  Commitment  on
Universal Multilingualism for an International Conference on
Multilingualism. UNESCO has promised to "keep the pot boiling" on this topic
during the coming biennium. Category 2 meetings, where all members states
are present,  are now the norm before a proposed convention or declaration
goes to the UNESCO General Conference.


My contribution to the debate ended with "As we sit here and talk, unique
voices around the world are falling silent!"

Dave Pearson

SIL International


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