Respect for minority language rights key to inter-ethnic peace

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jun 20 13:04:21 UTC 2008

Respect for minority language rights key to inter-ethnic peace

The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Knut Vollebaek,
urged OSCE participating States on 18 June to ensure protection of the
language rights of national minorities as a necessary precondition for
peace and stability. "Linguistic rights are the quintessence of
minority rights. The prevention of inter-ethnic conflicts goes hand in
hand with the establishment of an adequate system of protection for
linguistic rights," the High Commissioner said. Ambassador Vollebaek
was speaking at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Oslo
Recommendations regarding the Linguistic Rights of National
Minorities. The Recommendations, developed in 1998 by independent
experts at the request of the High Commissioner, build on
international law to offer more precise provisions to guide language

Addressing the challenges of linguistic management in the OSCE area,
High Commissioner Vollebaek said efforts to promote one language at
the expense of another were particularly harmful. "Such thinking is
harmful not just to minorities but also to majorities. When a majority
demands mindless obedience and submission from a minority, this is
usually regarded as subjugation and increases the chances of that
majority not being respected," the High Commissioner said.

The two-day conference, co-organized by the High Commissioner, the
Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and the Norwegian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, brings together policy-makers, academics and minority
leaders from across the OSCE region to discuss how challenges relating
to minority language rights can be tackled.

June 19, 2008

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