The International Committee of Tongues Without Borders
OUR CAUSE : Saving endangered languages and reviving extinct ones
OUR RALLYING CRY : “For the dying majority!”
OUR STRUGGLE : Against Linguistic Apartheid, Where a Minority of the World’s Languages Silence the Majority
OUR STRATEGY : Gaining formal recognition by international role players and UN Member States of the critically important role that language security plays in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular among indigenous and other linguistically disadvantaged peoples.
Who we are
International Committee of Tongues Without Borders
The ICTWB is an impartial, neutral and independent organization with an exclusively humanitarian mission that was set up in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2019.
Why support the ICTWB ?
The ICTWB is the only nonprofit in the world dedicated to both the revitalization of endangered and revival of extinct languages worldwide.
And while we work with language, people remain our main focus. Their identity and their language, yes. But also their material needs.
By strengthening language, we help strengthen identity. A strong, positive identity offers an untold number of beneficial spinoffs for all people, from social to economic to cultural to health to professional and indeed to every aspect of human development. Very often nonprofits cater firstly and foremostly for people’s material needs, not language, culture or identity. For us, linguistic and identitarian needs are just as important as material ones, and indeed help make more sustainable material forms of assistance.
So, to also meet the other needs of speakers of endangered languages, we partner with nonprofits that specialize in meeting the material needs of victims of human rights abuses, victims of war or people suffering from issues such as famine, drought, earthquakes, failed states and other social problems.
Starting with language and identity, the ICTWB thus takes a holistic approach to sustainable alleviation of all forms of human suffering.
At present, there are some 7.7 billion humans on earth (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ ) speaking a total of 7111 languages ( www.ethnologue.com/guides/how-many-languages ).
Of these 7.7bn humans, indigenous peoples represent just 4.8%, or 370 million people, but form one third of all people living in extreme poverty ( https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/2030-agenda-for-sustainable-development/peace/governance/indigenous-peoples.html ).
Likewise, the languages of this sliver of the world population represent the lion’s share of the world’s languages, in fact 96% of all languages are spoken by indigenous peoples, i.e. well over 6000 languages ( https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-launches-website-international-year-indigenous-languages-iyil2019 ).
But not all indigenous peoples come equal either, and this distinction once more has to do with poverty and language. Thus, out of a total of 370m indigenous people speaking over 6000 languages, some 136 million speak (or used to speak!) one of the world’s 2539 endangered and extinct languages (https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/apr/15/language-extinct-endangered and http://www.unesco.org/languages-atlas/ ).
Most of the work done by international aid organizations and nonprofits that specialize in indigenous peoples, focus on the relatively speaking better off 200 million indigenous people who speak non-endangered languages.
The 136 million speaking the world’s 2539 endangered (and extinct) languages, are the poorest of the poor, the most underprivileged of the world’s outcasts. They are the world’s forgotten peoples, for the most part living in remote places, in extreme conditions, far off the beaten track of international aid providers.
In fact, they are so isolated geographically and so neglected culturally, that UNESCO estimates every two weeks one more of these 2539 endangered languages falls silent forever ( https://global-lingo.com/every-14-days-a-language-dies/ ).
For a detailed list of these languages and their speakers, see: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mUYwl5ZUTp2OHDr0hsco89YY5J8Qx2GWzTLFETzVnB4/edit?hl=en&hl=en#gid=1
It is for these 136 million endangered-language indigenous people and their 2539 dying and dead languages that the International Committee of Tongues Without Borders exists.
Indeed, we also aim to awake sleeping beauty languages, otherwise described as extinct or dead.
In doing so, we’re following in the footsteps of Endangered Languages Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, of the University of Adelaide, Australia, rightfully described as the father of the new social science of revivalistics.
The ICTWB views linguistic rights as the cornerstone of all human rights, the key to unlocking all human potential, the neglected ingredient in policies for the empowerment of minorities.
The ICTWB’s 4 main aims are:
(1) to preserve and increase linguistic diversity throughout the world by defending the linguistic rights of indigenous and other disadvantaged peoples, their cultures and dignity, and to thereby promote the victims of linguicide and linguicism’s economic and social development, health and wellbeing;
(2) to correct present linguistic rights abuses by endeavoring to revitalize endangered languages;
(3) to correct past linguistic rights abuses by endeavoring to revive extinct languages;
(4) and to prevent future linguistic rights abuses by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.
The ICTWB has 3 governing bodies:
The Assembly is the supreme governing body of the ICTWB. It oversees all ICTWB activities. It is a collegial body comprised of Swiss nationals co-opted by the president. Its president is the president of the ICTWB. The Assembly formulates policy, defines general objectives and strategy, and approves the budget and accounts. It appoints key management officials.
The Assembly Council is a subsidiary body of the Assembly. It prepares the Assembly’s activities and takes decisions, particularly on strategic financial and human resources management issues and communication. It is presided by the president of the ICTWB.
The Internal Audit Unit is an internal oversight body, which independently and objectively monitors and assesses the organization’s performance and efficiency according to recognized international standards. The Internal Audit Unit and the Assembly are the two components of the internal oversight system. The Assembly has ultimate responsibility for oversight.
President of the ICTWB
André Lötter was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1967. He studied law, anthropology, linguistics and languages in Pretoria, and translating at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, where he was awarded a Master’s degree in 1999. After launching a series of successful small- and medium-scale businesses in France and Zululand, South Africa between 1998 and 2004, he joined Nelson Mandela’s party, the ANC, in 2007, was elected to public office in 2011, and appointed advisor to the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology of South Africa in 2014.
He knows, to varying degrees, English, Afrikaans, French, Spanish, German, Dutch and Zulu. In January 2019, he founded the ICTWB in Geneva, Switzerland to realize a life-long dream of assisting minority language speakers in their plight for cultural survival and economic empowerment.
The ICTWB is funded by voluntary contributions from the States that adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 (governments); national Tongues Without Borders societies ; supranational organizations (such as the European Commission); and public and private sources.
The ICTWB will each year launch appeals to cover its projected costs in the field and at headquarters. It will launch additional appeals if needs in the field increase.
The ICTWB accounts for its work and expenditure in its Annual Report.