History, Language and Culture

Jan 19, 2023

UNPO membership spans the globe and is composed of a diverse range of peoples, with distinct histories, languages and cultures. However, despite the incomparable value held in each culture, there are inadequate resources in place to safeguard them, often due in large part by the fact that the UNPO member peoples are lacking in effective representation at the national level. This can lead to national policies, particularly around education, that, whether intentionally or not, threaten the existence of the people, their identity, language and culture. 

The ability to freely maintain, promote and celebrate their history, language and culture is a large reason why many of the members of the UNPO have joined the organization. Membership in the UNPO provides a forum to celebrate these distinct languages and cultures and promote historical remembrance on the international stage.

The UNPO aims to be a forum in which our community of over 45 members and 300 million people can find a space where every culture can be celebrated.

The intrinsic value of cultural diversity

 “Our rich diversity . . . is our collective strength.” (Johannesburg Declaration, 2002 in UNESCO, 2021)

The unique beauty of the rich and varied mosaic of global culture is what defines the human race. The existence and protection of cultures allows all people to determine how they want to live their life. Engagement with different cultures enriches perspective, experiences, innovation, values, beliefs, and ways of living. Intercultural dialogue is a necessity for molding a peaceful and sustainable world for all. This is especially true for indigenous and local knowledges that are often marginalized; they are indispensable in the protection of the environment, and the preservation of their culture is paramount for the conservation of biodiversity and climate change mitigation.

The protection of culture and identity also requires the preservation of languages. The significance of languages stretches far beyond communication; it collates history, discourse, value, traditions, heritage, art, beauty and wisdom. Each language is inherently unique and is a fundamental aspect of both culture and identity. The loss of language leads to the evaporation of culture.

The protection of language and culture is firmly promoted by the internal community, and is reinforced in international laws and normative instruments. Amongst many others, the right to participate in culture is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Additionally, UNESCO consistently emphasize the need for the protection, restoration, and preservation of cultural heritage, and a universal respect for human rights. Significantly, in 2022, the United Nations unanimously adopted the Declaration for Culture, which affirmed culture as a “global public good”, to be “a specific goal in its own right” in future development agendas.

Despite this recognition, the world’s cultural and language diversity is under threat. Driven by globalisation and an increase in social intolerance, cultural heritage is deteriorating. The OHCHR has reported the intentional destruction of cultural heritage and the persecution of human rights defenders. It is understood that 3/4 of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Additionally, some sources estimate that up to 1500 languages could be lost in the next 100 years (Atlas LS, 2022), with one language dying every two weeks (UN, 2016). A large proportion of this loss is due to a lack of support from education systems. Accordingly, the international community has recognised that there is a lack of resources in place to safeguard cultural diversity.

A unique space for multiple People : the UNPO

The UNPO is a unique global forum that aims to provide a forum to over 45 nations and peoples over the world, each of whom, are unique and diverse. The UNPO is an international hub of tolerance and a network of solidarity within this great diversity. Within the organisation, members can be free from discrimination, speak freely, celebrate their identity, and promote their culture. This is showcased during our UNPO General Assembly Meetings, occurring every 18 months, where members unite to celebrate their cultures through a vibrant and diverse exhibition.

Therefore, the UNPO is proud to be joining the international chorus that prioritises the preservation of cultures. We are committed to the conservation, development, and dispersal of all cultures. The UNPO is campaigning for the right for everyone to access, participate in, and enjoy their culture; we must leave no-one behind. We are driven by the aim of extending the recognition of our members’ cultures, and sharing their uniqueness and beauty.

As a result, we are reaching out to the international community to join us in supporting our communities and their cultures. Collective action, driven by mutual respect and dialogue, is required to empower communities and prevent the permanent destruction of cultures.

 The UNPO’s campaign to protect cultures and empower diversity

The UNPO celebrates, promotes, and empowers its members’ cultures. We are proud to act as a channel through which the international community can be reliably informed about cultures that are often silenced. Through research reports, newsletters, public conferences, we aim to foster understanding, raise public awareness, and facilitate knowledge- sharing. Additionally, the UNPO actively campaigns for the cultural protection of all, as exemplified by our advocating for the right of all children to be educated in their own language.

The UNPO takes great pride in providing a space where all cultures can be celebrated. Through telling stories and sharing music, food, language and the arts, the organisation hopes to shine a light on the beautiful diversity it represents. For example, in 2012, UNPO Members jointly commissioned a cookbook, ‘Native Delights: UNPO Cookbook’, (avilable for purchase on Amazon). In 2014 the UNPO produced a music album, ‘The Rough Guide to Music without Frontiers’ (also available for purchase on Amazon). Additionally, the UNPO Foundation, with its partners at Oxford University, have developed a Model UNPO pedagogical programme. This programme, spearheaded by the UNPO Youth campaign, aims to inspire, empower, and educate a new generation of young people on the cultural diversity within unrepresented peoples.

Through sharing different cultures, we hope to bring communities closer together, facilitate cultural exchange, and promote collaboration and familiarity over hostility. To achieve this aim, we are excited to be developing our digital presence and modernising our online communication. The result will be a global digital network defined by solidarity and diversity. For example, we are currently constructing a Braanz website for the Baluch (Iran) community, to facilitate increased engagement and showcase their culture.