language inclusion

Youth for Linguistic Rights: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way to recovery

World Esperanto Youth Organization (TEJO) with Universal Esperanto Association / Universala Esperanto-Asocio (UEA)


This side event hosted by the World Esperanto Youth Organization (TEJO) will focus on the topic of linguistic rights: the fundamental right of every individual to choose the language or languages for communication in the private or public sphere. More than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, international institutions and organizations have observed and reported on the lack of respect and several violations of fundamental human rights. Linguistic rights are not an exception; in fact, they have been negatively affected by the rapid transition of the majority of professional, educational, personal, and social activities to an online environment. During the COVID-19 crisis, researchers are highlighting the need for public health officials to provide information in a range of languages and especially to provide public health information for indigenous people all over the world. What is the role of young people in this regard, especially in post-recovery societies?

Our objectives with this side event are to: Raise awareness of the importance of linguistic rights and especially how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; Highlight the relation of linguistic rights with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDGs 3, 4, 10, 16 and 17; Raise awareness on language discrimination: how speakers of minority languages are excluded and how decision-makers can intentionally include them; Explore the role of young people in this regard, especially in the post-recovery societies; Allow people from diverse backgrounds to exchange views and experiences between themselves; Connect linguistic minorities and use this side event as a networking opportunity.

The side event organised by TEJO and UEA on 6th April this year as part of ECOSOC Youth Forum (Linguistic Rights and Young People: Challenges and Opportunities) received positive appraisals by the attendees. Therefore, we would like to continue along this path and raise awareness on language policy.

CoNGO Notes: The Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations is currently constituting an NGO Committee on Language and Languages. Join and be a constituting member from anywhere in the world. For more information, see: proposed NGO Committee on Language and Languages.

Language and languages to get greater attention by NGOs at the UN

New York City, 30 September 2020 (CoNGO InfoNews) — The formation of an NGO Committee on Language and Languages is underway under the auspices of CoNGO (The Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations). The full text of the proposal is available here.

The Committee will be based in New York and will accept membership from NGO representatives from around the world. Its proponent, Humphrey Tonkin, propounds that “Fundamental to the work of the United Nations is the spoken and written word. The United Nations is a place of negotiation and action in which language and communication underlie everything that it does.”

“The UN Secretariat works in two languages; the General Assembly works in six; the various members of the UN family have their own language policies, intended to promote inclusion. Beyond its official languages, the United Nations interacts with the public in a host of other languages. “

Why language and languages? As the proposal says, the “Committee will cover both language use at the UN (sexist language, the language of hate, the language of peace, human rights language) and the use of languages at the UN (provision of translation and interpretation, documentation, outreach to speakers of other languages, parity among languages, protection and promotion of indigenous languages, etc.).”

Tonkin is on the board of directors of CoNGO. He represents the Universal Esperanto Association as an NGO representative at the United Nations. He is President and University Professor of the Humanities, emeritus, of the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

Tonkin and Chuck Mays recently penned an opinion piece about linguistic equality and justice, including Esperanto opposition “to discrimination on grounds of language, the suppression of minority languages” and how they “favor the promotion of linguistic rights as part of those rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Liberato Bautista, the president of CoNGO, welcomed the move to form the NGO Committee. “I look forward to constituting the committee and welcoming it as an important addition to the 35 NGO committees under CoNGO’s umbrella.”

NGO Committees are either based in New York, Geneva, or Vienna. Today, there are also committees focused on women and gender operating out of four political regions in the world.

The establishment of an NGO committee is guided by the CoNGO Rules, in particular Rules 38 to 48 (see sidebar). Twenty (20) NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status are needed to start the process of constituting the committee.

NGOs interested in becoming inaugural and constituting members of the NGO Committee on Language and Languages must send an email to Humphrey Tonkin ( and Liberato Bautista (, indicating their desire to join in forming the committee. Once twenty NGOs have formalized their request to form the Committee, the CoNGO president will call a meeting to constitute the Committee.

To join in forming this new Committee, fill out the form here.

Excerpts from the Rules of CoNGO 


38. Committees may be established under the auspices of the Conference in order to promote and facilitate collective work among NGOs on the substantive issues related to programmes, policies and activities of the United Nations system. These committees may organize activities which provide opportunities for NGOs to debate such issues, to articulate their views, to advocate positions with respect to UN resolutions or programmes, and to mobilize public opinion.

39. Committees may be established either by the General Assembly or by the Board at the request of twenty (20) or more Members, which shall specify whether the committee is to be a standing or fixed-term committee. When a decision has been taken to establish such a  committee, the Board shall notify the Members of the Conference and invite all Members to an initial meeting.

See  CoNGO Rules 38 to 48 here that govern NGO substantive committees.