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Language policies and conventions

Indigenous and/or minority languages receive some support through the following international declarations and conventions. That support varies from country-to-country. Not all political states are signatories to these documents. Follow the individual links to read more details.


Language policy web sites

Comparative Linguistic Policy Research provides updates about language policy around the world.

The Consortium for Language Policy and Planning is an unincorporated association of a number of research universities, advocacy bodies, and other scholars interested in issues of language policy and planning.

Institute for Language and Education Policy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting research-based policies in serving English and heritage language learners.

Te Waka Reo National Language Policy Network, New Zealand


National policies

Australia's National Indigenous Languages Policy 2009


United Nations conventions and declarations

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

  • adopted on 20 November 1989 and entered into force 2 September 1990.
  • Article 29 talks of the development of respect for the child's language and values and Article 30 states that a child belonging to a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right to use his or her own language.

Convention on Biological Diversity

  • entered into force on 29 December 1993.
  • 193 Parties (168 Signatures).
  • Article 8(j) on Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices is most directly relevant to language issues.

Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights

  • approved on 6 June 1996.

UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • adopted 17 October 2003 and entered into force 20 April 2006.
  • 123 State Parties are currently signatories to the Convention (April 2010).
  • Article 2 notes various domains for ICH and Article 11 requires State signatories to take the necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage.

UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

  • adopted 20 October 2005 and entered into force 18 March 2007.
  • 110 State Parties are currently signatories to the Convention (April 2010).
  • notes in the preamble that "that linguistic diversity is a fundamental element of cultural diversity, and reaffirming the fundamental role that education plays in the protection and promotion of cultural expressions".

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  • adopted on 13 September 2007.
  • The votes on the Declaration can be seen here. 144 states were in favour, 11 abstained, 34 states were absent and 4 voted against the declaration (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States).
  • Updates:
    • On 3 April 2009, Australia formally endorsed the declaration. 
    • Canada announced on 3 March 2010 that it is moving to endorse the declaration.
    • NZ endorsed the declaration on 19 April 2010.
    • In April 2010, the United States indicated that it will review its position regarding the Declaration. Columbia and Samoa have now indicated their support for the declaration.
      • U.S. to review its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigneous Peoples Indian Law Resource Center 2010 Issue 2
      • Wikipedia's page on the Declaration with updates on State signatories.
  • Article 13 (the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit languages) and Article 14 (right to education in one's own language) are particularly relevant to Indigenous languages.