Not since the collapse of the Soviet Union have the subjects of minority and linguistic rights enjoyed such prominence in discussions of the international community. Various legal commentators have suggested several reasons explaining the renewed interest in the subject: the emergence of a multi-polar world politic, the large-scale reappearance of civil and ethnic conflicts, and even the awareness of cultural differences resulting from globalization. The atrocities that came to light after World War II in particular made it painfully clear to the international community the harm that had been committed against individuals because of their membership in a particular group. Largely as a result of that realization, the language of international law post-World War II has sought to specifically prohibit individual discrimination on the basis of group characteristics. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, states quite clearly: "Everyone is entitled to all the freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
As such, the principle of non-discrimination is widely accepted as a part of international law. What has not been so clearly included in this sentiment, however, is the protection of the language belonging to such groups, despite the recognition of linguistic difference as a defining feature of almost all political communities. This Article will provide a starting point in the discussion of how, in a post-Soviet globe, different States at varying degrees of linguistic plurality can develop the capacity to live with such differences. Part II begins by offering a summary of arguments in favor of official language policies on the one hand and more expansive State obligations towards the protection of linguistic minorities on the other. Part III looks at the strength of current and past international linguistic protections, specifically examining the trends of individualism versus group rights and negative versus positive obligations over history. Part IV looks at the application of linguistic protections in two case scenarios, Europe and Canada, that have had widely varied results. Finally, the Article concludes by applying the lessons learned from the international and regional level to the situation of the Spanish-speaking minority in the United States and proposing several considerations for the future of linguistic protections.
Marina A. Torres,
Inside Looking Out: An Application of International and Regional Linguistic Protections to the U.S. Spanish-Speaking Minority,
87 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol87/iss3/1