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Language in the UN and EU: Linguistic Diversity as a Challenge for Multilateralism

New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 91-115, 2010

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/79

23 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2010  

Jacqueline F Mowbray

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

Date Written: August, 20 2010

Abstract

Over 6000 languages are spoken throughout the world. Yet as a practical matter, international institutions can operate in only a limited number of languages. This article explores the implications of this gap between the languages spoken by the world’s people and the languages used in the UN and EU, in the context of concerns about the “democratic deficit” in these two institutions. It suggests that, at both a practical and a symbolic level, limitations on the number of languages used within multilateral institutions may exclude certain groups from effective participation in processes of global governance within these bodies. This highlights a general tension between multilateralism and the accommodation of linguistic diversity, which is then explored in more detail through an analysis of the debate surrounding the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

Keywords: international institutions, international law, language policy, linguistic diversity, democratic deficit, global governance

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Mowbray, Jacqueline F, Language in the UN and EU: Linguistic Diversity as a Challenge for Multilateralism (August, 20 2010). New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 91-115, 2010; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 10/79. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1662239

Jacqueline F Mowbray (Contact Author)

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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