“Je veillerai à ce que tous les moyens soient mis en oeuvre pour définir un cadre légal clair et stable pour toutes les langues régionales,” (sept.2012) (I will make sure to implement a clear and stable legal framework for all regional languages) click on the link for more

« La République indivisible, c’est celle qui est fière de sa langue : la langue française. Belle langue ! Langue de la diversité, langue de l’exception, langue de la culture. Langue qui s’offre aux autres. Et parce que nous ne craignons rien pour la langue française, nous ratifierons aussi la Charte des langues régionales parce que c’est aussi une demande qui nous est faite et qui est légitime ». (The Indivisible Republic is proud of its language: the French language. Beautiful Language! Language of the diversity, language of the exception, language of culture, language which offers itself to others. And because we are not afraid of the future of the French language, we shall ratify as well the European Charter for Regional or Minority Rights click on the link for more

—Also Sprach François Hollande…but was will er tun jetzt??? Sorry for my broken German, but after listening to today’s round table on Linguistic Rights, this came to my mind. Yet, much more was discussed at this very interesting session convened by Rita Iszák, the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, who, the day after releasing her Report on Minority Issues, held today a panel of experts including the following keynote speakers as well as a large number of questions or comments from the floor. Here are my notes. Don’t hesitate to discuss these points and share your notes on the meetings you attend, my dear colleagues! But let me also share some photos of this event as well as of the remarkable Chagall exhibition which takes place in Paris at the moment, as no artist better than Chagall expressed the poignant beauty of the vanishing Yiddishland of Russia…a minority no one cared to protect then but that he felt compelled to represent and share with the future generations.

De Varennes, Fernand (2013), ‘Expert’s point of view regarding linguistic rights’, paper given at round table on linguistic rights, UNOG, 13 March.

intro Rita Iszak: effective solutions and positive practices. cf her report. Right to media, cultural life, political life, education.
Fernand first speaker.
Q: why is there a need to protect minority languages?
A: to find a solution, we should identify the problem. Minorities are often vulnerable and states are never unbiased.
Linguistic diversity is menaced worldwide. This is not a normal evolution, it’s the result in most cases of government policies, laws and practices that disadvantage most minority languages.
There are good practices, such as Switzerland, but that’s rare. Rate of disappearance of languages seems to have increased. Governement are imposing their language preference to the exclusions of minority languages.
Too often, governement think that granting an official language or a few hours of teaching is enough…This official designation is meaningless if there is no obligation to use it. In terms of education, it can have limited value if the government refuses to use this language taught.
Peru example, S.Africa’s important gesture of 11 official languages but the recent legislation just contradicts this, even Maori in NZ and Gaelic in Ireland…
If you use a language in education that is not the pupil’s mothertongue, result are definitely proving the direct correlation between the mother tongue teaching language and pupils’ results.

Linguistic rights often derive from other rights. Public teachers killed in South Thailand. Conflict exist because of the denial of any linguistic rights. Not all languages should be treated the same. Respect linguistic freedom of minorities and proportional public use. What is justified, reasonable and practical. CF Switzerland, Ethiopia and India.

What else should we do? Minorities and indigenous language speakers must not be left in their linguistic ghettos. Governments should give them the opportunity to learn their languages. One language for all doesn’t mean equal access to everyone. Cf. his slide on effect of mandatory use of French as language of Civil Service Employment after 1968 for members of French speaking minority in Canada. Empowering effect of bilingualism.
En France, il y a des langues régionales mais pas de minorités…When we are talking of language rights, we are talking about human rights because the result is discrimination and closing access to civil participation.
The concept of Egalité in France: need for guidance regarding good practices.
About China and answering to the Chinese representative: you have very good legislation, far better than most of the existing ones but the problem remains of their actual implementation.

Dunn, Joanne (2013), ‘overview of UNICEF actions regarding linguistic rights’, paper given at Roundtable on linguistic rights.

Human rights UK qualified lawyer.
Q: What is UNICEF doing regarding kids being taught in their mother tongue?
Linguistic education. Protecting Children’s right and give them their full potential. Minority children are often the most disadvantaged. Equity focused strategy. In Columbia, Afro-Descendants programming. Roma children in Central Asia. Again focusing on education. In Vietnam, addressing disparity at pre-, primary and early secondary schools. 54 Linguistic groups recognized in Vietnam. Increase schools in minority languages and adequate facility. Boarding schools to address lack of physical access which is still very limited. Scholarship for teachers from minority background. Pilot project in 2008. training teachers, consultation with local communities. National Education Strategy that supports bilingual education. Strategic framework on minority issues at UNICEF.
present in 191 countries. linkages between children’s abilities to participate in school to access to work.
Tibetan children going to India but then refused to return. Seek increased participation in country of origin. Involving Roma representatives is key to our programming.

Izsak, Rita (2013), ‘Roundtable on linguistic rights’, paper given at UN Council on Human Rights (Side Event).

Independent Expert on minority issues. Convened the round table around a concept note:
The Independant Expert on minority issue, Ms. Rita Iszak, will attend the 22nd session of the human rights council where she is due TO PRESENT HER REPORTS AND HOLD HER INTEACTIVE Dialogue on 12 march 2013. Her annual report to the Council focuses on the rights of linguistic minorties and provides an overview of global issues affecting persons belonging to linguistic minorities and threats to minority languages.
The Independent Expert has highlighted that she will undertake further work during the course of her term as mandate-holder on the issues of linguistic minorities and will seek information relating to challenges and ppositive practices from United Nations Member States, minority groups, civil society and other stakeholders in this regard.
The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belongigng to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities establishes that States sall protect the linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity. It emphasizes that minorities h ave the right “to use their own langauge, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination”. Art. 4 of the Declaration requires that “States should take appropriate opportunities to learn their montherongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue”.

In accordance with HR Council resolution 16/6, which requires her to identify best practices and possibilities for technical cooperation, the Indenpendent expert will convene a roundtable discussion on the margin of her annual reporting to the Council on 13 March. The aim of the event is to discuss with Member States, NGOs, representatives of academia and linguistic minority communities varous initiatives that have proved successful in ensuring the rights of linguistic minorities and in accomodating their needs in the society where they live.
In her report, the Independent Expert addresses the following main specific areas and challenges concerning linguistic minorities worldwide:
threats to the existence of minority languages and linguistic minorities,
recognition of minority languages and linguistic rights, the use of minority languages in public life, in education and in the media, Minority languages in public administration and judicial fields, minority language use in names, place names and public signs, participation in economic and political life, provision of information and services in minority languages.

She holds the UN Forum on Minority issues, around end of Nov.-December in Geneva every year and invites all NGOs to try to send a representative. Contact her for more info at:

E-mail address:


Mail address:

Ms. Rita Izsák
Independent Expert on minority issues
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 917 9640
Fax: + 41 22 917 9006
50 participants attended this very lively and interesting roundtable.

The Chinese representative gave clear assurance that his government promotes bilingual education as a very good practice where China invests a lot of money more than 10’000 schools in ethnic minority areas. over 100 million school books in minority languages. Regarding Children who go to study in India and are refused to reenter their native Tibet, he asks for documentation on an issue that surprises him.
See what Fernand de Varennes replied.

Korkeakivi, Antti (2013), ‘Overview of OHCHR interventions regarding Linguistic and Minority Rights’, paper given at Roundtable on linguistic rights.

Indigenous Peoples and Minorittes Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
HR perspective. Protection of linguistic rights is important for culture and heritage, but the HR obligation is often overlooked. Not enough attention paid to their HR nature. Standards: Charter, Declaration: protection was there from the very beginning, esp. art. covenant 27 etc..HR standards and stages undertaken and endorsed. Not only right to use language and language specific rights, but it encompasses non-discrimination, right to participate to decision making. We are ensuring that HR part is taken into account at OHCHR. Not only message to States and Civil society but also within UN system. UN Network on Minority issues launched last year. Often opposition of State and Minority languages. HR treaty bodies also call for access to teaching of state language and at the same time measures to protect minority languages.
Indigenous issues at the UN are related to another working UN Group.
There are differences and at the same time interlinkages. If you look at studies on minority language education and expert reports, one particular issue is autonomous learning. language rights are seen as political and cultural and seen as a menace. Indigenous peoples have been excellent at spreading the standards as linguistic rights. UN Declaration of minorities has been difficult to make available to all minority languages whereas indigenous langauges succeeded. It will come up in English first but in other languages soon!
HR Advocates: access to justice is a linkage between language and HR general rights. Concrete prevention of functioning of minority rights. cf. Cultural Rights of European Charter. Consistent message on minority rights.

Kozhemyakov, Alexey (2013), ‘Overview of Council of Europe’s actions regarding Linguistic Rights and Minorities’, paper given at Roundtable on linguistic rights, UNOG.

Head of the Department, National Minorities and Antidiscrimination/ Head of Secretariat of the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages, Council of Europe secretariat of Regional Charter of minority languages.
Q: How legally binding is it? Council of Europe is protecting minority languages: 3 monitoring bodies, Commission on Racism and Intolerance, National Minorities and Anti discrimination, European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages: Art. 7.2, but possibility to improve services.Active measures for state to protect and promote minority languages. Charter complements individual rights of minority language speakers. Charter based on reality and historical data. 25 state party used by 206 linguistic minority groups. Summary of charter achievement in UNESCO Journal, but one feature missing: languages of migrants cannot be protected under the charter. NGO of minorities are active and instrumental in our ongoing consultation on language practices. Charter provides teaching of history and culture of language minorities.
Achievements: recognition by member states, revitalization of nearly extinct languages UK Cornish, Cyprus Arabic new legislation or institutional arrangement in judicial authorities etc. Charter is open for non-European states.
States rather than speakers…difference between defending the language, the community or the individuals???
starting point of the conventions: charter came from Congress of minority speakers of council of Europe. cf. Rob Dunbar’s work on the issue!!!
two Conventions are addressing the same body of people. Charter went beyond minority protection and anti discrimination.
About France: we are monitoring the recent development in France where Hollands promised to ratify the charter. We organised two events in Strasbourg and Bayonne giving ground for large discussions in the recent past. We cooperate with French NGOs, especially in Alsace, but that’s an ongoing process.
Conflict prevention is the main concern of the Charter. By principle we do not comment on minority languages in political terms.
No precedent in non-european states to ratify, but still the country has to deal with mirror approach.


* this picture was taken at the poignant meeting of Iranian ethnic groups where a participant described the situation of the Kurdish population there right now:

Discrimination against Kurdish People. Torture, executions, terror, violation of HR in Khurdistan. Kurdish nation and other oppressed nations inside Iran. Naming them only is the beginning of the discrimination. 14 million people registered as Kurds. Must have their own culture and language. but the republic of iran calls them tribes. Many people deny us to be a nation and refer to us as tribes even here at the UN. Violation of the Rights of the Nations. Not letting the children study in their mothertongue but in a language which is foreign to them. 90% of pax of Kurdistan hear their irst word of Persian in school, so it prevents children from being good at school. Depriving Kurdish people from social benefits, no good hospitals, Thousands of people die for lack of access to doctors and services. People killed and not even burried.

One thought on “Moi Président de la France, j’inviterai le Parlement français à ratifier la Charte des Langues Régionales ou Minoritaires

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