Saturday, February 20, 2010

NAT: World Language Day

More than 248 native languages face serious risk of extinction in Latin America

On International Mother Language Day, the regional representation for South and Central America of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stresses the need for effective measures to halt the extinction of native languages across the region, as well as to encourage their use.

The opportunity to use and transmit beliefs and traditions in one's mother tongue represents not only a cultural right, but an essential tool for ensuring knowledge of human rights. According to UNESCO, 90% of the world's languages will disappear in the next 100 years.

South America is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world. According to the UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, there are more than 248 languages in Latin America that are currently considered severely or critically endangered, including: 14 in Argentina, 4 in Belize, 35 in Bolivia, 178 in Brazil, 8 in Costa Rica, 6 in Chile, 64 in Colombia, 12 in Ecuador, 1 in El Salvador, 23 in Guatemala, 7 in Honduras, 143 in Mexico, 8 in Nicaragua, 8 in Panama, 12 in Paraguay, 57 in Peru, 1 in Uruguay, and 34 in Venezuela.

The Regional Offices of the OHCHR stress the urgency to adopt measures to implement national and regional linguistic policies. At the same time, they call on States to encourage intercultural bilingual education as well as the production of digital contents in native languages.

The Regional Offices of the OHCHR point out that such rights are enshrined in Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, The ILO's Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognize the right of indigenous people to use, revitalize, stimulate and preserve their language.

These instruments establish the responsibility of States to adopt measures to ensure access for indigenous peoples to education in their own culture and language, as well as their responsibility to adopt effective measures to protect and guarantee the exercise of such rights in political, judicial and administrative instances.

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