We, members of the worldwide movement for the promotion of Esperanto, address this Manifesto to all governments, international organizations and people of good will; declare our unshakeable commitment to the objectives set out here; and call on all organizations and individuals to join us in working for these goals.
For more than a century Esperanto, which was launched in 1887 as a project for an auxiliary language for international communication and quickly developed into a rich living language in its own right, has functioned as a means of bringing people together across the barriers of language and culture. The aims that inspire the users of Esperanto are still as important and relevant as ever. Neither the worldwide use of a few national languages, nor advances in communications technology, nor the development of new methods of language teaching is likely to result in a fair and effective language order based on the following principles, which we hold to be essential.
Any system of communication which confers lifelong privileges on some while requiring others to devote years of effort to achieving a lesser degree of competence is fundamentally antidemocratic. While Esperanto, like any language, is not perfect, it far outstrips other languages as a means of egalitarian communication on a world scale.
We maintain that language inequality gives rise to communicative inequality at all levels, including the international level. We are a movement for democratic communication.
All ethnic languages are bound to certain cultures and nations. For example, the child who learns English learns about the culture, geography and political systems of the English-speaking world, primarily the United States and the United Kingdom. The child who learns Esperanto learns about a world without borders, where every country is home.
We maintain that education in any language is bound to a certain view of the world. We are a movement for global education.
Only a small percentage of foreign-language students attain fluency in the target language. In Esperanto, fluency is attainable even through home study. Various studies have shown that Esperanto is useful as a preparation for learning other languages. It has also been recommended as a core element in courses in language awareness.
We maintain that the difficulties in learning ethnic languages will always be a barrier for many students who would benefit from knowing a second language. We are a movement for effective language learning.
The Esperanto community is almost unique as a worldwide community whose members are universally bilingual or multilingual. Every member of the community has made the effort to learn at least one foreign language to a communicative level. In many cases this leads to a love and knowledge of several languages and to broader personal horizons in general.
We maintain that the speakers of all languages, large and small, should have a real chance of learning a second language to a high communicative level. We are a movement for providing that opportunity to all.
The unequal distribution of power between languages is a recipe for permanent language insecurity, or outright language oppression, for a large part of the world’s population. In the Esperanto community the speakers of languages large and small, official and unofficial meet on equal terms through a mutual willingness to compromise. This balance of language rights and responsibilities provides a benchmark for developing and judging other solutions to language inequality and conflict.
We maintain that the wide variations in power among languages undermine the guarantees, expressed in many international instruments, of equal treatment regardless of language. We are a movement for language rights.
National governments tend to treat the great diversity of languages in the world as a barrier to communication and development. In the Esperanto community, however, language diversity is experienced as a constant and indispensable source of enrichment. Consequently every language, like every biological species, is inherently valuable and worthy of protection and support.
We maintain that communication and development policies which are not based on respect and support for all languages amount to a death sentence for the majority of languages in the world. We are a movement for language diversity.
Every language both liberates and imprisons its users, giving them the ability to communicate among themselves but barring them from communication with others. Designed as a universally accessible means of communication, Esperanto is one of the great functional projects for the emancipation of humankind — one which aims to let every individual citizen participate fully in the human community, securely rooted in his or her local cultural and language identity yet not limited by it.
We maintain that exclusive reliance on national languages inevitably puts up barriers to the freedoms of expression, communication and association. We are a movement for human emancipation.
Prague, July 1996