The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Knut Vollebaek, urged OSCE participating States today to ensure protection of the language rights of national minorities as a necessary precondition for peace and stability. “Linguistic rights are the quintessence of minority rights. The prevention of inter-ethnic conflicts goes hand in hand with the establishment of an adequate system of protection for linguistic rights,” the High Commissioner said.
Ambassador Vollebaek was speaking at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Oslo Recommendations regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities. The Recommendations, developed in 1998 by independent experts at the request of the High Commissioner, build on international law to offer more precise provisions to guide language policy-making.
Addressing the challenges of linguistic management in the OSCE area, High Commissioner Vollebaek said efforts to promote one language at the expense of another were particularly harmful.
“Such thinking is harmful not just to minorities but also to majorities. When a majority demands mindless obedience and submission from a minority, this is usually regarded as subjugation and increases the chances of that majority not being respected,” the High Commissioner said.
The two-day conference, co-organized by the High Commissioner, the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brings together policy-makers, academics and minority leaders from across the OSCE region to discuss how challenges relating to minority language rights can be tackled.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre will address the conference on Thursday.