Thousands of minority languages threatened by assimilation, conflict and forced displacement – UN expert
OHCHR release, 12 March 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND:  The UN Independent Expert on minority issues Rita Izsák warned that half of the world’s estimated 6,000 plus languages will likely die out by the end of the century, and urged world governments to take significant and urgent efforts to protect both minority communities and their language heritage. “Some groups are vulnerable to factors beyond their control, such as policies of assimilation that promote dominant national or official languages, the impact of conflict, or forced displacement from their traditional lands,” Ms. Izsák said during the presentation of her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council. “Some countries have aggressively promoted a single national language as a means of reinforcing sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity.” “Language is a central element and expression of identity and of key importance in the preservation of group identity,” she underlined. “Language is particularly important to linguistic minority communities seeking to maintain their distinct group and cultural identity, sometimes under conditions of marginalization, exclusion and discrimination.” In her view, protection of linguistic minority rights is a human rights obligation and an essential component of good governance, efforts to prevent tensions and conflict, and the construction of equal and politically and socially stable societies.
In her report, Ms. Izsák analyses various threats to the existence of minority languages and linguistic minorities, the importance of recognition of minority languages and linguistic rights, the use of minority languages in public life, education, in the media, in public administration and judicial fields, minority-language use in names, place names and public signs, participation in economic and political life and the need for provisions of information and services in minority languages. Read the release … Download the report [pdf] …

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