Committee: 7th UNESCO
Topic Area: Safeguarding endangered languages and dialects
Delegate Name: Fotios Pavlou
Languages and dialects are not only means of communications but also a resource of cultural history. They encompass values and beliefs and in this sense they have been considered a crucial element of national identities. However, in the era of globalization, while international trade, telecommunications, television, and the Internet have turned the Earth into a small global village, more than half the world's languages are in danger of disappearing. Fortunately, in recent years many universities, international research institutes, non-governmental organizations and local communities themselves have set actions towards the conservation of the endangered languages and dialects.
A root cause for this phenomenon is the massive migration to industrial centers, either to find a better job or because of armed conflicts and natural disasters. The migrants in their effort to integrate to the new environment often adopt the dominant language, manners, customs and habits alienate themselves and their children from their own language and culture. Thus, according to UNESCO principles, when speakers of a language cease to use it, they cease to pass it from one generation to the next and gradually put it at risk of disappearing.
In Romania the statutory language is Romanian but the population structure by mother tongue is very diversified and fragmented, with less that 10% of the population having a mother tongue different from Romanian. By virtue of Art. 6 (the right to identity) the state recognizes and guarantees to persons belonging to national minorities the right to preserve, develop and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity. Individuals can use whatever language they want in private life while the promotion-oriented rights means that individuals may use minority languages in public sphere-administration, courts, or education. Some of the newspapers and periodicals published in minority languages are state financed via the Council of Minorities, or via the Ministry of Culture, which also supports the publication of books in those languages. The total number of periodicals published in minority languages is approximately 130. As regards broadcasting, there are various radio and TV programs in minority languages in an effort to promote their sustainability.
The delegation of Romania, firmly believes that preserving multilingualism needs to be tackled by both tolerance and promotion of human rights, including linguistic rights.
We need to warn all member states that since languages fade, the rich tapestry of cultural diversity will also fade. So will national identities. This would obviously be a major loss for the cultural heritage of humanity, especially in the case of languages that have not been documented in writing and their perpetuation is based on oral tradition.
We believe that the more economically developed countries should support and aid UNESCO projects in the preservation of indigenous languages in places that cannot afford to run projects of their own. Linguists should also be sent to specific areas where people speak endangered languages to work with locals and record their language. Moreover, all governments should include educational programmes to promote minor languages or dialects of their regions. Special courses should be designed and established at school units so everybody can be taught their mother tongue if they wish.
All in all, we support that persons belonging to a national minority can rely on specific legal framework in order to defend their linguistic rights as regards education, public administration and media. However, as such programmes can hardly survive without financial support from the state, it is obvious that further measures are needed to put flesh on governmental strategies which look nice on paper but less impressive in their implementation.