Since the Congress in Lugano (1987), PEN Català has been gaining prominence within PEN International’s working committee, formerly known as the Translations and Programme Committee. It so happens that it was a Committee that was born in Barcelona during the Assembly of 1978, but one that had struggled to function properly during its first years of existence. In Lugano, the Catalan centre put forth a proposal to celebrate an extraordinary three-day meeting in Catalonia in order to calmly debate the function and the scope of said Committee. The meeting was held in Andorra in December of 1988. The result was the strengthening of a Committee that from then onwards was called the Translations and Linguistic Rights Committee. The strategy of periodically holding the Committee’s meetings in the Catalan territories (Gandia, 1990 and Mallorca, 1993) produced differing results, but above all produced the prospect of working to redefine and to put together an intellectual project that favours language that finds itself in a situation like ours.
Lluís Jou presented an important document in Gandia, “The Rights of Minority Languages and their legal protection”, a declaration on “Linguistic Rights” was written and the Committee’s work regarding allegations of “Linguistic Rights’” violations was defined and a commitment was made to transform it into an organisation that serves in its defence. As a logical result of this new role that the Catalan centre had obtained, three things happened:
- The Committee decides to change its name and stay as the Linguistic Rights and Translations Committee, definitively abandoning the burden of having a ‘programme’ function, where there was too much ambiguity.
- The Catalan PEN centre obtained the presidency, firstly with Isidor Cònsul and later on with Carles Torner.
- The challenge of organising a Global Conference in Barcelona about Linguistic rights was raised in 1996.
With the collaboration of CIEMEN, the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia and with the participation of NGOs from all over the world and seventy PEN centres, the conference approved a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (UDLR) that was fully accepted by PEN International. It was also accepted by several governments around the world and is currently pending approval by UNESCO. In order to watch over this future process, a follow-up committee of the Universal Declaration is created to overcome the obstacles on the path to achieving the stated objectives.
One of the Translations and Linguistic Rights Committee achievements is having taken the issue of Linguistic Rights to the very centre of PEN International, which has taken it in as one of its most important roles to date.
The Dalai Lama’s letter in support of the UDLR:
“I have had the honour of receiving a copy of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights and I would like to support it. I believe that all communities of speakers have the right to preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage. Encouraging and promoting these values will help with extending linguistic and cultural diversity in our world.
6th December, 1996″