JULY 15, 2011
Some two weeks ago all PEN Centres received a message from the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee telling you about The Girona Manifesto. I am following up in order to let you know how important I personally believe this initiative to be.
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