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Challenges to Human Rights of Members of Linguistic Minorities Exist in all Regions of the World
March 12, 2013

Interactive Dialogue with Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Rita Izsak
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

As Delivered by Aleksandra Needham

Human Rights Council 22nd Session


March 12, 2013


The United States would like to thank the Independent Expert on Minority Issues for her work.  We also appreciate the work of the Office of the High Commissioner, and the UN human rights bodies related to implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities.  2012 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration.

As the report by the Independent Expert on minority issues illustrates, there are numerous challenges that hinder full implementation of States’ obligations to protect the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.

We believe the Independent Expert’s report on linguistic minorities took a useful and interesting approach to the topic of the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.

We took note of your call for UN Member States to provide information to the Independent Expert relating to the national protection of linguistic minority rights and minority languages, including positive practices to protect and promote the rights of linguistic minorities.  We would be interested to hear how you plan to use any information that you receive in the future in response to this request.

Challenges to the enjoyment of the human rights of members of linguistic minorities exist in all regions of the world, including in the United States.  The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all persons in the United States the right to converse or correspond in any language they wish. Virtually every major language is spoken somewhere in the United States.  Within the United States, numerous laws and programs recognize the need to provide protection and accommodation for persons with limited English proficiency.  For example, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, covered entities are required to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by persons with limited English proficiency   The U.S. Department of Justice coordinates compliance with an executive order that requires that all departments and agencies of the U.S. government to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to persons with limited English proficiency, and develop  and implement a system to provide those services so that such individuals can have meaningful access to them.

We hope that, as you have requested in your report, members of linguistic minorities and non-governmental organizations will provide the Independent Expert with information about their situation and challenges related to minority-language use and their proposals for solutions to their challenges.

The United States looks forward to strengthening our partnerships with UN bodies, governments, and civil society to promote and protect the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.

Thank you.