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International Translation Day: Translation and Human Rights

The right to express oneself in one’s language. The right to be served in one’s language. The right to information. The right to culture. The right to knowledge. The right to a fair trial. The right to legal aid. These rights, now known as human rights, could not be respected if no translator was present.

As soon as there is an interrelation between two languages and two cultures, the translator is there. All that is then needed is to draw up a list of everything that we do on a daily basis to fully take stock of the place of translation in our lives. More than a simple transmitter of information and culture, the translator is present everywhere that human activity and human rights are at issue. In this way the translator is there for the accused in a trial, the injured in a disaster, people displaced in conflicts, and for peacekeeping troops. On the economic level, the translator is the one through whom economic, trade, and political agreements are signed, the one without whom trade could not function, without whom, products could not be sold. As such, a translator brings added value that often goes unrecognised, or is even ignored.

Because in fact, what rights are granted to the translator? From the simple reasonable deadline in order to complete professional work, to copyright and the right to treatment equal to that of the person being translated, his/her rights remain abused to varying degrees in countries worldwide. This abuse ranges from non-recognition of professional training in better off countries, to prosecution for the translation of a disputed author in other countries, and even lack of adequate protection in a war zone. So vital, yet, a translator is taken for granted, once introduced …when he not being criticised!

This year, the International Federation of Translators has chosen the Rights of the translator as the theme for its World Congress and for International Translation Day 2005, in order to heighten public awareness. In this way, it hopes that the users of translation and interpreting – that is everyone, everywhere – will recognise and support the vital nature of translation and of translators and interpreters around the world, not only for culture, but also and above all for the economy, trade, politics, information, and human rights.

The International Federation of Translators is a world federation of professional associations grouping translators, interpreters and terminologists. It has 115 members in over fifty countries and thus represents over 60, 000 professionnals.