21 December 2023
Language Rights are Human Rights: New UNIC Caribbean campaign gives regional voice to Universal Declaration
Over the Human Rights Day 2023 weekend, representatives of the United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean Area (UNIC Caribbean) travelled to Castries to introduce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Saint Lucian Kwéyòl – the French-based, Antillean creole language spoken by 95 per cent of Saint Lucia’s population. UNIC National Information Officer, Amanda Laurence, and Public Information Assistant, Lindy-Ann Edwards-Alleyne, briefed the media, civil society partners, and UN colleagues about the UNIC’s campaign to render the UDHR in the Caribbean voice. They described the campaign goal to add to the number of UDHR Caribbean language versions globally available. And they delivered the campaign message: that expressing the UDHR in Caribbean languages activates the Declaration’s universality by ensuring that everyone, everywhere across the region is aware of their human rights and can claim them. The campaign was launched with the Human Rights Day 2023 release of UDHR translations into Saint Lucian Kwéyòl and Jamaican Patwa. When in Castries, the UNIC Caribbean team spoke with Embert Charles, Chair of the Monsignor Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre (FRC), the highly regarded research institute and cultural repository for Saint Lucia. Mr. Charles provided insight into the historical and linguistic context of Saint Lucian Kwéyòl, and explained how the Centre works to elevate the language from an accepted form of expression to one of the country’s official languages. He acknowledged the value of the Caribbean Rights Out Loud! campaign to these efforts. The UNIC team also met with its civil society partner, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), which has implemented education and advocacy campaigns in Saint Lucian Kwéyòl. ECADE Director of Communications, Maria Fontenelle, explained that the organisation faces challenges in communicating human rights concepts in traditionally oral or spoken Caribbean languages. Translating the UDHR and, more significantly, voicing it in these languages, she said, could improve the effectiveness of campaigns targeting rural communities and audiences. Widening UDHR access Language should never be a barrier between people and the enjoyment of their human rights. Article 2 of the UDHR states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and 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.” Jamaican Patwa, the other language to which the UDHR has been translated under this campaign, is spoken by approximately 2.5 million people as their first language. By making the UDHR available in Patwa, Caribbean Rights Out Loud! is providing more direct access to the Declarations’ powerful ideas and empowering speakers of Patwa to claim their human rights. Global project The translations produced under the Caribbean Rights Out Loud! campaign are being included in the United Nations global UDHR Translation Project, coordinated by the United Nations Human Rights Office. Translated into hundreds of languages and dialects from Abkhaz to Zulu, the UDHR set a world record in 1999 for being the most translated document in the world. There are now 562 different translations available and the Caribbean Rights Out Loud! campaign promises to increase that number. The campaign also aligns with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75th Anniversary commemoration, led by OHCHR’s’ Human Rights 75 Initiative, which aims to rejuvenate the UDHR by demonstrating its relevance in the modern world and promoting its promise of freedom, equality, and justice for all. Through Caribbean Rights Out Loud! the UNIC plans to deliver more UDHR translations in the various indigenous and creole languages spoken across the region.