New Zealand: Conclusion Of The UN Year Of Languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Feb 23 17:45:38 UTC 2009

Conclusion Of The UN Year Of Languages
Monday, 23 February 2009, 10:43 am
Press Release: UNESCO

Conclusion Of The United Nations International Year Of Languages

A wide range of activities that have taken place throughout New
Zealand as part of the United Nations International Year of Languages
2008 will be marked with a gathering on Monday 23 February at Te Taura
Whiri i te reo Maori, the Maori Language Commission.

The Year was launched at a language workshop on International Mother
Languages Day, 21 February 2008.

Led by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, key partners
for the Year have included Te Taura Whiri i te reo Maori, Human Rights
Commission, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Pacific Island
Affairs.  "Languages are to be treasured, they are a bridge to the
past and to the future. This year New Zealand has joined hundreds of
UNESCO partners worldwide to protect and promote languages,
particularly endangered and indigenous languages," says UNESCO
National Commission chairman, Bryan Gould.

Major achievements in New Zealand include the: statement on Language
Policy released by Te Waka Reo; launch of a 100% Maori language
television channel; the initial development of a Pacific language
strategy; and He Pataka Kupu, the launch of the first monolingual
Maori dictionary. While recent surveys suggest an increase in the
health of the Maori language, Te Taura Whiri i te reo Maori chairman,
Erima Henare recently warned against complacency.

"Although there is a resurgence of te reo Maori, a critical mass of
fluent speakers of all ages is needed, as well as the continued
support of the wider New Zealand community". Te Waka Reo is a national
language policy network facilitated by the Human Rights Commission as
part of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme. "The right to
language is a vital human right, because it goes to the very heart of
a person's identity and culture. It is vital for the realisation of
people's cultural, civil, political, social and economic rights," says
Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres.

These actions are all in keeping with calls from the UNESCO Director
General, Koichiro Matsuura for governments to policies to secure the
harmonious and fruitful co-existence of the languages of each country.
Mr Matsuura also urged governments to note the importance of languages
to development, peace and social cohesion. UNESCO has commended New
Zealand for its contribution to the international work on languages,
and will be launching a new Atlas of Endangered Languages, which
records the status of language internationally and warns that of the
6000 languages spoken internationally, almost 200 have fewer than 10

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