and non-governmental organizations, signatories to the
present Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights,
meeting in Barcelona from 6 to 9 June 1996,
Having regard to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
Rights which, in its preamble, expresses its «faith in
fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the
human person and in the equal rights of men and women»;
and which, in its second article, establishes that
«everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms»
regardless of «race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status»;
Having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights of 16 December 1966 (Article 27), and
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights of the same date which, in their
preambles, state that human beings cannot be free unless
conditions are created which enable them to enjoy both
their civil and political rights and their economic,
social and cultural rights;
Having regard to Resolution 47/135 of 18 December 1992 of
the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization
which adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons
belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic
Having regard to the declarations and conventions of the
Council of Europe, such as the European Convention for
the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,
of 4 November 1950 (Article 14); the Convention of the
Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of 29 June
1992, approving the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages; the Declaration on National
Minorities made by the Summit Meeting of the Council of
Europe on 9 October 1993; and the Framework Convention
for the Protection of National Minorities of November
Having regard to the Santiago de Compostela Declaration
of the International PEN Club and the Declaration of 15
December 1993 of the Translations and Linguistic Rights
Committee of the International PEN Club concerning the
proposal to hold a World Conference on Linguistic Rights;
Considering that, in the Recife, Brazil, Declaration of 9
October 1987, the 12th Seminar of the International
Association for the Development of Intercultural
Communication recommended the United Nations Organization
to take the necessary steps to approve and implement a
Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights;
Having regard to Convention 169 of the International
Labour Organization of 26 June 1989 concerning Indigenous
and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries;
Having regard to the Universal Declaration of the
Collective Rights of Peoples, Barcelona, May 1990, which
declared that all peoples have the right to express and
develop their culture, language and rules of organization
and, to this end, to adopt political, educational,
communications and governmental structures of their own,
within different political frameworks;
Having regard to the Final Declaration adopted by the
General Assembly of the International Federation of
Modern Language Teachers in Pécs (Hungary) on 16 August
1991, which recommended that linguistic rights be
considered as fundamental rights of the individual;
Having regard to the report of the Human Rights
Commission of the United Nations Economic and Social
Council, of 20 April 1994, concerning the draft
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which
viewed individual rights in the light of collective
Having Regard to the draft Declaration of the
Inter-American Human Rights Commission on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples, approved at session 1278 on 18
Considering that the majority of the world's endangered
languages belong to non-sovereign peoples and that the
main factors which prevent the development of these
languages and accelerate the process of language
substitution include the lack of self-government and the
policy of states which impose their political and
administrative structures and their language;
Considering that invasion, colonization, occupation and
other instances of political, economic or social
subordination often involve the direct imposition of a
foreign language or, at the very least, distort
perceptions of the value of languages and give rise to
hierarchical linguistic attitudes which undermine the
language loyalty of speakers; and considering that the
languages of some peoples which have attained sovereignty
are consequently immersed in a process of language
substitution as a result of a policy which favours the
language of former colonial or imperial powers;
Considering that universalism must be based on a
conception of linguistic and cultural diversity which
prevails over trends towards homogenization and towards
Considering that, in order to ensure peaceful coexistence
between language communities, overall principles must be
found so as to guarantee the promotion and respect of all
languages and their social use in public and in private;
Considering that various factors of an extralinguistic
nature (historical, political, territorial, demographic,
economic, sociocultural and sociolinguistic factors and
those related to collective attitudes) give rise to
problems which lead to the extinction, marginalization
and degeneration of numerous languages, and that
linguistic rights must therefore be examined in an
overall perspective, so as to apply appropriate solutions
in each case;
In the belief that a Universal Declaration of Linguistic
Rights is required in order to correct linguistic
imbalances with a view to ensuring the respect and full
development of all languages and establishing the
principles for a just and equitable linguistic peace
throughout the world as a key factor in the maintenance
of harmonious social relations;
HEREBY DECLARE THAT
The situation of each language, in view of the foregoing
considerations, is the result of the convergence and
interaction of a wide range of factors of a political and
legal, ideological and historical, demographic and
territorial, economic and social, cultural, linguistic
and sociolinguistic, interlinguistic and subjective
At the present time, these factors are defined by:
. The age-old unifying tendency of the majority of states
to reduce diversity and foster attitudes opposed to
cultural plurality and linguistic pluralism.
. The trend towards a worldwide economy and consequently
towards a worldwide market of information, communications
and culture, which disrupts the spheres of interrelation
and the forms of interaction that guarantee the internal
cohesion of language communities.
. The economicist growth model put forward by
transnational economic groups which seeks to identify
deregulation with progress and competitive individualism
with freedom and generates serious and growing economic,
social, cultural and linguistic inequality.
Language communities are currently threatened by a lack
of self-government, a limited population or one that is
partially or wholly dispersed, a fragile economy, an
uncodified language, or a cultural model opposed to the
dominant one, which make it impossible for many languages
to survive and develop unless the following basic goals
are taken into account:
. In a political perspective, the goal of conceiving a
way of organizing linguistic diversity so as to permit
the effective participation of language communities in
this new growth model.
. In a cultural perspective, the goal of rendering the
worldwide communications space compatible with the
equitable participation of all peoples, language
communities and individuals in the development process.
. In an economic perspective, the goal of fostering
sustainable development based on the participation of all
and on respect for the ecological balance of societies
and for equitable relationships between all languages and
For all these reasons, this Declaration takes language
communities and not states as its point of departure and
is to be viewed in the context of the reinforcement of
international institutions capable of guaranteeing
sustainable and equitable development for the whole of
humanity. For these reasons also it aims to encourage the
creation of a political framework for linguistic
diversity based upon respect, harmonious coexistence and
1. This Declaration considers as a language community any
human society established historically in a particular
territorial space, whether this space be recognized or
not, which identifies itself as a people and has
developed a common language as a natural means of
communication and cultural cohesion among its members.
The term language proper to a territory refers to the
language of the community historically established in
such a space.
2. This Declaration takes as its point of departure the
principle that linguistic rights are individual and
collective at one and the same time. In defining the full
range of linguistic rights, it adopts as its referent the
case of a historical language community within its own
territorial space, this space being understood, not only
as the geographical area where the community lives, but
also as the social and functional space vital to the full
development of the language. Only on this basis is it
possible to define the rights of the language groups
mentioned in point 5 of the present article, and those of
individuals living outside the territory of their
community, in terms of a gradation or continuum.
3. For the purpose of this Declaration, groups are also
deemed to be in their own territory and to belong to a
language community in the following circumstances:
i. when they are separated from the main body of their
community by political or administrative boundaries;
ii. when they have been historically established in a
small geographical area surrounded by members of
otherlanguage communities; or
iii. when they are established in a geographical area
which they share with the members of other language
communities with similar historical antecedents.
4. This Declaration also considers nomad peoples within
their areas of migration and peoples established in
geographically dispersed locations as language
communities in their own historical territory.
5. This Declaration considers as a language group any
group of persons sharing the same language which is
established in the territorial space of another language
community but which does not possess historical
antecedents equivalent to those of that community.
Examples of such groups are immigrants, refugees,
deported persons and members of diasporas.
1. This Declaration considers that, whenever various
language communities and groups share the same territory,
the rights formulated in this Declaration must be
exercised on a basis of mutual respect and in such a way
that democracy may be guaranteed to the greatest possible
2. In the quest for a satisfactory sociolinguistic
balance, that is, in order to establish the appropriate
articulation between the respective rights of such
language communities and groups and the persons belonging
to them, various factors, besides their respective
historical antecedents in the territory and their
democratically expressed will, must be taken into
account. Such factors, which may call for compensatory
treatment aimed at restoring a balance, include the
coercive nature of the migrations which have led to the
coexistence of the different communities and groups, and
their degree of political, socioeconomic and cultural
1. This Declaration considers the following to be
inalienable personal rights which may be exercised in any
the right to be recognized as a member of a language
the right to the use of one's own language both in
private and in public;
the right to the use of one's own name;
the right to interrelate and associate with other members
of one's language community of origin;
the right to maintain and develop one's own culture;
and all the other rights related to language which are
recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights of 16 December 1966 and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights of the same date.
2. This Declaration considers that the collective rights
of language groups may include the following, in addition
to the rights attributed to the members of language
groups in the foregoing paragraph, and in accordance with
the conditions laid down in article 2.2:
the right for their own language and culture to be
the right of access to cultural services;
the right to an equitable presence of their language and
culture in the communications media;
the right to receive attention in their own language from
government bodies and in socioeconomic relations.
3. The aforementioned rights of persons and language
groups must in no way hinder the interrelation of such
persons or groups with the host language community or
their integration into that community. Nor must they
restrict the rights of the host community or its members
to the full public use of the community's own language
throughout its territorial space.
1. This Declaration considers that persons who move to
and settle in the territory of another language community
have the right and the duty to maintain an attitude of
integration towards this community. This term is
understood to mean an additional socialization of such
persons in such a way that they may preserve their
original cultural characteristics while sharing with the
society in which they have settled sufficient references,
values and forms of behaviour to enable them to function
socially without greater difficulties than those
experienced by members of the host community.
2. This Declaration considers, on the other hand, that
assimilation, a term which is understood to mean
acculturation in the host society, in such a way that the
original cultural characteristics are replaced by the
references, values and forms of behaviour of the host
society, must on no account be forced or induced and can
only be the result of an entirely free choice.
This Declaration is based on the principle that the
rights of all language communities are equal and
independent of the legal or political status of their
languages as official, regional or minority languages.
Terms such as regional or minority languages are not used
in this Declaration because, though in certain cases the
recognition of regional or minority languages can
facilitate the exercise of certain rights, these and
other modifiers are frequently used to restrict the
rights of language communities.
This Declaration considers that a language cannot be
considered proper to a territory merely on the grounds
that it is the official language of the state or has been
traditionally used within the territory for
administrative purposes or for certain cultural
1. All languages are the expression of a collective
identity and of a distinct way of perceiving and
describing reality and must therefore be able to enjoy
the conditions required for their development in all
2. All languages are collectively constituted and are
made available within a community for individual use as
tools of cohesion, identification, communication and
1. All language communities have the right to organize
and manage their own resources so as to ensure the use of
their language in all functions within society.
2. All language communities are entitled to have at their
disposal whatever means are necessary to ensure the
transmission and continuity of their language.
All language communities have the right to codify,
standardize, preserve, develop and promote their
linguistic system, without induced or forced
1. All language communities have equal rights.
2. This Declaration considers discrimination against
language communities to be inadmissible, whether it be
based on their degree of political sovereignty, their
situation defined in social, economic or other terms, the
extent to which their languages have been codified,
updated or modernized, or on any other criterion.
3. All necessary steps must be taken in order to
implement this principle of equality and to render it
All language communities are entitled to have at their
disposal whatever means of translation into and from
other languages are needed to guarantee the exercise of
the rights contained in this Declaration.
1. Everyone has the right to carry out all activities in
the public sphere in his/her language, provided it is the
language proper to the territory where s/he resides.
2. Everyone has the right to use his/her language in the
personal and family sphere.
1. Everyone has the right to acquire knowledge of the
language proper to the territory in which s/he lives.
2. Everyone has the right to be polyglot and to know and
use the language most conducive to his/her personal
development or social mobility, without prejudice to the
guarantees established in this Declaration for the public
use of the language proper to the territory.
The provisions of this Declaration cannot be interpreted
or used to the detriment of any norm or practice deriving
from the internal or international status of a language
which is more favourable to its use within the territory
to which it is proper.
Overall linguistic régime
Public administration and official bodies
1. All language communities are entitled to the official
use of their language within their territory.
2. All language communities have the right for legal and
administrative acts, public and private documents and
records in public registers which are drawn up in the
language of the territory to be valid and effective and
no one can allege ignorance of this language.
All members of a language community have the right to
interrelate with and receive attention from the public
authorities in their own language. This right also
applies to central, territorial, local and
supraterritorial divisions which include the territory to
which the language is proper.
1. All language communities are entitled to have at their
disposal and to obtain in their own language all official
documents pertaining to relations which affect the
territory to which the language is proper, whether such
documents be in printed, machine-readable or any other
2. Forms and standard administrative documents, whether
in printed, machine-readable or any other form, must be
made available and placed at the disposal of the public
in all territorial languages by the public authorities
through the services which cover the territories to which
each language is proper.
1. All language communities have the right for laws and
other legal provisions which concern them to be published
in the language proper to the territory.
2. Public authorities who have more than one
territorially historic language within their jurisdiction
must publish all laws and other legal provisions of a
general nature in each of these languages, whether or not
their speakers understand other languages.
1. Representative Assemblies must have as their official
language(s) the language(s) historically spoken in the
territory they represent.
2. This right also applies to the languages of the
communities established in geographically dispersed
locations referred to in Article 1, Paragraph 4.
1. Everyone has the right to use the language
historically spoken in a territory, both orally and in
writing, in the Courts of Justice located within that
territory. The Courts of Justice must use the language
proper to the territory in their internal actions and, if
on account of the legal system in force within the state,
the proceedings continue elsewhere, the use of the
original language must be maintained.
2. Everyone has the right, in all cases, to be tried in a
language which s/he understands and can speak and to
obtain the services of an interpreter free of charge.
All language communities have the right for records in
public registers to be drawn up in the language proper to
All language communities have the right for documents
authenticated by notaries public or certified by other
authorized public servants to be drawn up in the language
proper to the territory where the notary or other
authorized public servant performs his/her functions.
1. Education must help to foster the capacity for
linguistic and cultural self-expression of the language
community of the territory where it is provided.
2. Education must help to maintain and develop the
language spoken by the language community of the
territory where it is provided.
3. Education must always be at the service of linguistic
and cultural diversity and of harmonious relations
between different language communities throughout the
4. Within the context of the foregoing principles,
everyone has the right to learn any language.
All language communities have the right to decide to what
extent their language is to be present, as a vehicular
language and as an object of study, at all levels of
education within their territory: preschool, primary,
secondary, technical and vocational, university, and
All language communities are entitled to have at their
disposal all the human and material resources necessary
to ensure that their language is present to the extent
they desire at all levels of education within their
territory: properly trained teachers, appropriate
teaching methods, text books, finance, buildings and
equipment, traditional and innovative technology.
All language communities are entitled to an education
which will enable their members to acquire a full command
of their own language, including the different abilities
relating to all the usual spheres of use, as well as the
most extensive possible command of any other language
they may wish to know.
All language communities are entitled to an education
which will enable their members to acquire knowledge of
any languages related to their own cultural tradition,
such as literary or sacred languages which were formerly
habitual languages of the community.
All language communities are entitled to an education
which will enable their members to acquire a thorough
knowledge of their cultural heritage (history, geography,
literature, and other manifestations of their own
culture), as well as the most extensive possible
knowledge of any other culture they may wish to know.
1. Everyone is entitled to receive an education in the
language proper to the territory where s/he resides.
2. This right does not exclude the right to acquire oral
and written knowledge of any language which may be of use
to him/her as an instrument of communication with other
The language and culture of all language communities must
be the subject of study and research at university level.
All language communities have the right to preserve and
use their own system of proper names in all spheres and
on all occasions.
1. All language communities have the right to use place
names in the language proper to the territory, both
orally and in writing, in the private, public and
2. All language communities have the right to establish,
preserve and revise autochthonous place names. Such place
names cannot be arbitrarily abolished, distorted or
adapted, nor can they be replaced if changes in the
political situation, or changes of any other type, occur.
All language communities have the right to refer to
themselves by the name used in their own language. Any
translation into other languages must avoid ambiguous or
Everyone has the right to the use of his/her own name in
his/her own language in all spheres, as well as the
right, only when necessary, to the most accurate possible
phonetic transcription of his/her name in another writing
Communications media and new technologies
All language communities have the right to decide the
extent to which their language is be present in the
communications media in their territory, whether local
and traditional media, those with a wider scope, or those
using more advanced technology, regardless of the method
of dissemination or transmission employed.
All language communities are entitled to have at their
disposal all the human and material resources required in
order to ensure the desired degree of presence of their
language and the desired degree of cultural
self-expression in the communications media in their
territory: properly trained personnel, finance, buildings
and equipment, traditional and innovative technology.
All language communities have the right to receive,
through the communications media, a thorough knowledge of
their cultural heritage (history, geography, literature
and other manifestations of their own culture), as well
as the greatest possible amount of information about any
other culture their members may wish to know.
The languages and cultures of all language communities
must receive equitable and non-discriminatory treatment
in the communications media throughout the world.
The communities described in Article 1, paragraphs 3 and
4, of this Declaration, and the groups mentioned in
paragraph 5 of the same article, are entitled to an
equitable representation of their language in the
communications media of the territory where they are
established or where they migrate. This right is to be
exercised in harmony with the rights of the other
language groups or communities in the territory.
In the field of information technology, all language
communities are entitled to have at their disposal
equipment adapted to their linguistic system and tools
and products in their language, so as to derive full
advantage from the potential offered by such technologies
for self-expression, education, communication,
publication, translation and information processing and
the dissemination of culture in general.
1. All language communities have the right to use,
maintain and foster their language in all forms of
2. All language communities must be able to exercise this
right to the full without any community's space being
subjected to hegemonic occupation by a foreign culture.
All language communities have the right to full
development within their own cultural sphere.
All language communities are entitled to access to the
works produced in their language.
All language communities are entitled to access to
intercultural programmes, through the dissemination of
adequate information, and to support for activities such
as teaching the language to foreigners, translation,
dubbing, post-synchronization and subtitling.
All language communities have the right for the language
proper to the territory to occupy a pre-eminent position
in cultural events and services (libraries,
videothèques, cinemas, theatres, museums, archives,
folklore, cultural industries, and all other
manifestations of cultural life).
All language communities have the right to preserve their
linguistic and cultural heritage, including its material
manifestations, such as collections of documents, works
of art and architecture, historic buildings and
inscriptions in their own language.
The socioeconomic sphere
1. All language communities have the right to establish
the use of their language in all socioeconomic activities
within their territory.
2. All members of a language community are entitled to
have at their disposal, in their own language, all the
means necessary for the performance of their professional
activities, such as documents and works of reference,
instructions, forms, and computer equipment, tools and
3. The use of other languages in this sphere can only be
required in so far as it is justified by the nature of
the professional activity involved. In no case can a more
recently arrived language relegate or supersede the use
of the language proper to the territory.
1. Within the territory of his/her language community,
everyone has the right to use his/her own language with
full legal validity in economic transactions of all
types, such as the sale and purchase of goods and
services, banking, insurance, job contracts and others.
2. No clause in such private acts can exclude or restrict
the use of the language proper to the territory.
3. Within the territory of his/her language community,
everyone is entitled to have the documents required for
the above-mentioned operations at his/her disposal in
his/her own language. Such documents include forms,
cheques, contracts, invoices, receipts, delivery notes,
order forms, and others.
Within the territory of his/her language community,
everyone has the right to use his/her own language in all
types of socioeconomic organizations such as labour and
union organizations, and employers', professional, trade
and craft associations.
1. All language communities have the right for their
language to occupy a pre-eminent place in advertising,
signs, external signposting, and in the image of the
country as a whole.
2. Within the territory of his/her language community,
everyone has the right to receive full oral and written
information in his/her own language on the products and
services proposed by commercial establishments, such as
instructions for use, labels, lists of ingredients,
advertising, guarantees and others
3. All public indications affecting the safety of persons
must be expressed at least in the language proper to the
territory, in conditions which are not inferior to those
of any other language.
1. Everyone has the right to use the language proper to
the territory in his/her relations with firms, commercial
establishments and private bodies and to be served or
receive a reply in the same language.
2. Everyone has the right, as a client, customer,
consumer or user, to receive oral and written information
in the language proper to the territory from
establishments open to the public.
Everyone has the right to carry out his/her professional
activities in the language proper to the territory unless
the functions inherent to the job require the use of
other languages, as in the case of language teachers,
translators or tourist guides.
The public authorities must take all appropriate steps to
implement the rights proclaimed in this Declaration
within their respective areas of jurisdiction. More
specifically, international funds must be set up to
foster the exercise of Linguistic Rights in communities
which are demostrably lacking in resources. Thus the
public authorities must provide the necessary support so
that the languages of the various communities may be
codified, transcribed, taught, and used in the
The public authorities must ensure that the offial
bodies, organizations and persons concerned are informed
of the rights and correlative duties arising from this
The public authorities must establish, in the light of
existing legislation, the sanctions to be applied in
cases of violation of the linguistic rights laid down in
This Declaration proposes the creation of a Council of
Languages within the United Nations Organization. The
General Assembly of the United Nations Organization is to
be responsible for setting up this Council, defining its
functions and appointing its members, and for creating a
body in international law to protect language communities
in the exercise of the rights recognized in this
This Declaration recommends and promotes the creation of
a World Commission on Linguistic Rights, a non-official,
consultative body made up of representatives of
non-governmental organizations and other organizations
working in the field of linguistic law.
Barcelona, June 1996