United Nations in Welsh Peace Mission; 'Assembly Must Tell Us How They Will Save Welsh'

Article excerpt

Byline: Emyr Williams

THE United Nations has dramatically called on the National Assembly to explain its Welsh language policies.

Unesco, the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, wants to know its plans to protect the Welsh language.

This is the first time a UN body has been in contact with the National Assembly.

The move was last night welcomed as a significant breakthrough by Welsh language campaigners.

Cymuned's international spokeswoman, Judith Humphreys, said: "It is significant that this contact has been about language.

"Cymuned strongly believes that the Assembly, by not protecting Welshspeaking communities, is not living up to its international obligations to protect minorities."

Cymuned wrote to Unesco last month, pointing out that the number of communities where 80pc of the population speak Welsh has declined from 279 in 1961 to 66 in 1981 to probably no more than a dozen or so today.

Ms Humphreys said: "This decline in our Welsh-speaking communities is the result of population change, with people moving in and refusing to learn Welsh and locals moving out because they can't buy houses and haven't got jobs.

"This is pushing a minority group to extinction."

After receiving the Cymuned communication, Unesco's representative based at the British Council, wrote to the Assembly, "pressing for clarification of the Assembly's active support of Welsh language usage".

The Assembly replied that the Culture Committee was currently conducting a review of the Welsh language.

Unesco have also asked Cymuned to explain "in more detail which aspects of the approach being taken by the Assembly you feel are unsatisfactory and unlikely to meet the principles of good practice advocated by Unesco".

Cymuned has now written to Unesco to express concern that the language review will not tackle the housing crisis in rural Wales.

"We feel that placing the discussion in an international context will move it out of the territory where politicians in Wales can try to use scaremongering to score cheap political points, " said Ms Humphreys in her letter to Unesco. …