Five UEA representatives took part in the Conference of Non-Government Organisations, which the Department of Public Information (DPI) of United Nations ran in Bonn (Germany) from 3rd to 5th of September 2011. This important annual event was taking place for the 64th time and had the theme Sustainable Societies – Responsive Citizens. The conference was opened by Kiyo Akasaka, Assistant General Secretary of UN for communication and public information. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon greeted the opening session by video message.
Marcus Cramer, Stefano Keller, Mélanie Maradan, Julia Noe and Manfred Westermayer took part as delegates for UEA. During the conference they had many opportunities to speak with representatives of other NGOs and exchange ideas, information and business cards.
The UEA-team made known UEA's standpoint on language rights, commenting that English was the only working language at the conference. When Keller asked for the reason, Maria-Luisa Chávez, chief of relations of UN with NGOs, replied that it was caused by lack of money. Also she regretted the lack of use of other languages.
During one of the round-table discussions Keller came back to the matter after a representative of PepsiCo presented the steps taken by his company to support development in various parts of the world, where it manufactures and sells its wares. Keller asked whether PepsiCo could not enable the use of other official languages of UN at similar conferences with a subsidy, if it already does so much humanitarian help already. The reply was that one would have to write to the PepsiCo office. The same reply was given to the question, whether the company, which has a presence in so many language regions, could not also put Esperanto text on its wares.
In the round-table discussion on citizen participation, Mélanie Maradan asked how the speaker imagines that native people are to, for example, participate in that discussion and in local action, if only English is used. She remarked that the people concerned cannot take part in the discussion and that in the conference many representatives cannot intervene because of insufficient knowledge of English. Maradan asked what can be done to solve the problem, but she received no reply.
The UEA delegates attended several working groups, where they added to the discussion mentioning the need to consider the rights of each people to use their mother tongue and further develop their own culture.
In a meeting with the Chief of Staff of the NGO-related office of UN, Stefano Keller spoke in Esperanto with English interpretation by Marcos Cramer. He commented on various contact and information channels of the UN, which is using Facebook and Twitter and Youtube more and more to interact with civil society. As an example of the activity of UEA, Keller mentioned the new website created in New York, which informs Esperantists about the work of the UN. Manfred Westermayer talked about a project developed by Esperantists in Africa.
At the beginning of the conference a draft of the final declaration had been published, about which the participating NGOs could comment and propose changes and additions. The UEA team proposed adding sentenses about language diversity and language rights, about which the draft was silent.
On the last day the combined declaration of the conference was presented, but mention of language rights, as proposed by UEA, was lacking. Maradan protested about this omission. Two of the authors of the text were in favour of language rights, and privately came to Keller to suggest again adding the UEA amendment into the text. Keller and Maradan did that, while their colleagues Cramer, Noe and Westermayer continued to contact representatives of other organisations.
Those responsible for the final declaration continued to work on the text and the last minute complaints and amendments for several days. Whatever the outcome, the result of UEA's participation in the conference remains, that those present heard about language rights, about Esperanto and about UEA. So they learned about the defense of language minorities by Esperantists and about the use of Esperanto for interethnic understanding, dialog and communication.
Documents, videos and photos about the conference: http://www.linguistic-rights.org/eventoj (Adapted from Stefano Keller's report.)
The UEA amendments are highlighted in the September 6 draft resolution: