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Language Rights of Linguistic Minorities

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues is taskjed with promoting the implementation of the Minorities Declaration, which clearly includes on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Linguistic Minorities.

In this connection, in 2013, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur (the then Independent Expert) on minority issues, presented her annual report to the United Nations Human Rights Council focusing on the challenges and rights of linguistic minorities (A/HRC/22/49). In that report, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern that challenges to the enjoyment of the rights of linguistic minorities exist in all regions. They include restrictions on the opportunities available to linguistic minorities to learn and receive education for their children in minority languages, as well as limitations on the use of minority languages in public life and the media. She warned that globally, many minority languages are under threat of significant decline or disappearance due to such factors as the dominance of national and international languages, processes of assimilation, and a decline in the number of minority-language users. She identified and discussed nine areas of concern:

(1) threats to the existence of minority  languages and linguistic minorities;
(2) recognition of minority languages and linguistic rights;
(3) the use of minority languages in public life;
(4) minority languages in education;
(5) minority languages in the media;
(6) minority languages in public administration and judicial fields;
(7) minority language use in names, place names and public signs;
(8) participation in economic and political life; and
(9)the provision of information and services in minority languages.

Following her thematic study, the Special Rapporteur decided to develop a handbook, available in all six UN languages entitled :  "Language Rights of Linguistic Minorities: A Practical Guide for Implementation."  A | C | E | F | R | S

The  guide aims to serve as a practical tool to assist policymakers and right holders to have a better understanding of linguistic rights as well as to provide best practices that could be replicated in different contexts. It is aimed to assist in the efforts to achieve the necessary balance between a state’s official language or languages, and its obligations to use or respect the language preferences of linguistic minorities. Protection and promotion of  language rights can also help to preserve the world’s linguistic diversity.

The Guide aims to:

  • clarify the various rights of linguistic minorities relevant to language use and preferences;
  • clarify the obligations of state authorities towards linguistic minorities;
  • support the development and continuous improvement of effective (including cost-efficient  approaches to and practices for, these rights of linguistic minorities; and
  • promote consistent approaches to the participation and inclusion of minorities in public life and the implementation of their language rights