July 20, 2015

European Language Diversity Summit - Donostia 2016 - Second Meeting of the Organising Committee

On 14 and 15 July 2015, the Organising Committee of the European Language Diversity Summit, comprising six different organisations active in the fields of minority and language promotion, among which UNPO, convened for its second preparatory meeting in Donostia-San Sebastian, in the Basque Country. The meeting took place in the Martin Ugalde Cultural Park in Andoain, a centre where many organizations working in and for the Basque language have their headquarters. The committee discussed essential elements of the Protocol to Ensure Language Rights, which will be adopted at the December 2016 Summit, and officially approved the list of individuals who will be invited to form the Scientific Committee. The meeting also included visits to some of the organisations based in the Martin Ugalde Cultural Park, including Berria, the main newspaper published completely in Basque language.

The organising committee is responsible for the organisation of a Summit on Language Diversity in Europe - an initiative that is part of the programme of the 2016 Donostia-San Sebastian European Capital of Culture. The six entities that form the Organising Committee are the European Centre of Minority Issues (ECMI), The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the European Language Equality Network (ELEN), PEN InternationalCIEMEN and LINGUAPAX International. The activities are coordinated by the Council of Social Organisations of the Basque Language, Kontseilua, which created the project in cooperation with the Donostia/San Sebastian 2016 European Capital of Culture Foundation.

The Summit will take place on 8-10 December 2016 in Donostia, toward the end of the city’s tenure as European Capital of Culture, and its ambitious objective is to adopt a Protocol to Ensure Language Rights, which will be taken to international fora and institutions to allow entities of all kinds to regulate their commitment to language diversity.

After recapitulating what was decided at the first gathering of the Organising Committee last March, this meeting was focussed on finding consensus on the basic guidelines for the Protocol, through discussions on the various topics covered by the Universal Declaration of Language Rights. The debate covered principles, discrimination and rights; the official status of a language; the issues of bilingual and monolingual education; culture; proper names of places and people; public administration and official bodies; the socio-economic sector; and the media and new technologies. The discussion took into account the factors and criteria identified in the UNESCO document “Language Vitality and Endangerment”.

The organising committee also agreed on a list of individuals who will form the so-called Scientific Committee, a group composed of linguists, international lawyers and other experts in the field of the protection of minority languages. The members of this committee, to be presented in October, will be in charge of making sure that the text of the Protocol is written in a formal and effective language and that it brings about innovations and mechanisms that fit well into the existing legal and practical panorama of the protection of linguistic diversity, as well as the objectives set by the Organising Committee.

During the activities in Andoain, the organising committee also had the opportunity to visit a selection of institutions based in the Martin Ugalde Cultural Park and meet with their representatives. Among these were Berria, the only newspaper entirely in Basque that is available throughout the whole Basque country, and Bai Euskarari, an association that assesses whether shops, enterprises and other entities in the Basque country offer their services in Basque and at what level, and accordingly issues certificates to recognise different levels of commitment.

Overall, the two days of meetings were very productive and the organising committee made significant steps forward for both the preparation of the Summit itself and the drafting of the Protocol.

You may find an article about the same meeting on the official website of the Summit.

Photo Courtesy of gb2016donostia.eus