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Other UNESCO normative instruments

International Conventions

Over the past few years, the topic of languages in danger of disappearing has gained greater awareness among the scientific community, international organisations and increasingly among the public.

This has been underlined by the enlargement of Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which now states that "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion...".

In 1992, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

In 1996, the World Conference on Linguistic Rights in Barcelona, Spain resulted in the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. This declaration has served as a point of enrichment for further conventions.

In 1992, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is supervised by the Council of Europe and has been ratified by 16 countries in Europe.

UNESCO has been taking several important steps to develop international policies and support actions in this field. In 2001, UNESCO's General Conference unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which provides a solid conceptual framework for a range of actions that promotes cultural diversity and the preservation of endangered languages.

In response to this declaration, the UN General Assembly stated in February 2002 that it "pursues multilingualism as a means of promoting, protecting and preserving diversity of languages and cultures globally", and recognized that multilingualism "promotes unity in diversity and international understanding."

In 2003, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In October 2003, UNESCO's member states unanimously adopted the Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace, which seeks to support equitable and affordable access to information and to promote the development of multicultural knowledge societies.

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