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Linguistic diversity in selected UNESCO’s normative texts

The first of these three texts, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO’s Member States in 2001, sets out the framework in which the international community is to tackle linguistic diversity. Its Action Plan calls for Member States to take the appropriate measures towards:

-         safeguarding the linguistic heritage of humanity and giving support to expression, creation and dissemination in the greatest possible number of languages;

-         encouraging linguistic diversity – while respecting the mother tongue – at all levels of education, wherever possible, and fostering the learning of several languages from the earliest age; and

-         promoting linguistic diversity in cyberspace and encouraging universal access through the global network to all information in the public domain.

 The 2003 Convention recognizes the vital role of language in the expression and transmission of living heritage. All intangible cultural heritage domains – from knowledge about the universe to rituals, performing arts to handicrafts – depend on language for their day-to-day practice and inter-generational transmission. In the domain of oral traditions and expressions, language is not only a vehicle of intangible heritage, it constitutes their very essence.

The 2005 Convention asserts in its preamble that linguistic diversity as a fundamental element of cultural diversity. When discussing the measures aimed at protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions that signatory countries are encouraged to undertake, the Convention suggests adopting provisions relating to the language used in the cultural activities, goods and services (Article 6. B).

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