In today’s world we are witnessing the rapid loss of many languages and cultures.  If you lose your language, your way of articulating your own cultural experience, if you as a writer cannot access translation, cannot have your voice heard – then your freedom of expression is challenged and under threat.

PEN International wants to defend this right and to draw attention to the erosion of cultural diversity globally.  Its translation and linguistic rights committee have drawn up the Girona Manifesto to highlight the importance of linguistic diversity.  This Manifesto will be reviewed and discussed by PEN members from across the world at this year’s Annual Congress in Belgrade.

Here is the draft Manifesto:


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