Friday, September 16, 2011


The Girona Manifesto - A letter from John Ralston Saul to the membership about The Girona Manifesto

Exactly 15 years ago the same Committee led a coalition of civil society and international organizations in the production of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. This large and complex document was approved by PEN's annual Assembly of Delegates and has gone on to play an important role in specialist circles around the world. What has been missing is a short, clear Manifesto laying out the Declaration's essential arguments in a way that can be made use of by everyone.
The Girona Manifesto is precisely that. On one page containing ten points and written in a language which is both literary and practical, this Manifesto creates a tool we can all use.
Of course, our Assembly in Belgrade will be asked to approve it. But I thought it important to lay out the context in which this Manifesto can be read.
We are all concerned about pressures being put on languages with a smaller population base. We are concerned about the lack of translation from these languages and the difficulty they have making themselves heard in the world. Many languages are in danger. Many are actually disappearing. The loss of one's language, and through that loss much of one's culture, can be seen as the ultimate removal of freedom of expression.
The Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee began working on this Manifesto in our three official languages after its 2010 meeting.
At its 2011 meeting, in which both Hori Takeaki and myself took part, everyone present spent much of their time debating this short text in three languages. The result was The Girona Manifesto, which was unanimously adopted.
This Manifesto could give us a clear public document with which to defend and advance languages with smaller populations, as well, as endangered languages.
I encourage all of you to read it, to translate it into your own languages before Belgrade, and to think about how we could best use it to advance the multiplicity of languages and cultures that PEN International represents.
John Ralston Saul


PEN International brings together the writers of the world.

Fifteen years ago, the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights was first made public in Barcelona by PEN International’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.

Today, that same Committee, gathered together in Girona, declares a Manifesto of the Universal Declaration’s ten central principles.

1. Linguistic diversity is a world heritage that must be valued and protected.

2. Respect for all languages and cultures is fundamental to the process of constructing and maintaining dialogue and peace in the world.

3. All individuals learn to speak in the heart of a community that gives them life, language, culture and identity.

4. Different languages and different ways of speaking are not only means of communication; they are also the milieu in which humans grow and cultures are built.

5. Every linguistic community has the right for its language to be used as an official language in its territory.

6. School instruction must contribute to the prestige of the language spoken by the linguistic community of the territory.

7. It is desirable for citizens to have a general knowledge of various languages, because it favours empathy and intellectual openness, and contributes to a deeper knowledge of one’s own tongue.

8. The translation of texts, especially the great works of various cultures, represents a very important element in the necessary process of greater understanding and respect among human beings.

9. The media is a privileged loudspeaker for making linguistic diversity work and for competently and rigorously increasing its prestige.

10. The right to use and protect one’s own language must be recognized by the United Nations as one of the fundamental human rights.

Committee of Translation and Linguistic Rights of PEN International

Girona, 13th of May 2011

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