Why We Need a Cultural Red Book for Endangered Cultures, NOW: How Social Scientists and Lawyers/Rights Activists Need to Join Forces

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
David Lempert International Development Consultant;, Email:

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Social scientists and biologists/environmentalists have taken two very different legal and political strategies to deal with the parallel concerns of disappearance of cultural and biological diversity, with the environmentalists having greater success in drawing attention and funding. The difference is not due to the legal basis for actions. In terms of international legal protections, the laws and mechanisms for protecting human diversity are probably stronger than those for species. The reason for the greater comparative success of the environmentalists is not due to anything inherent in the areas of concern, but more to the effectiveness of organization of the biologists and ecologists, their ability to present their concerns in a scientific way, and their use of a tool – the Red Book for Endangered Species – that offers an accessible way for non-specialists to understand the threats. This article describes the emerging legal mechanisms in the international community through which human cultures could be more effectively protected, both by legal enforcement and by awareness, through the use of a new policy and screening tool. It describes some of the efforts that have taken place in anthropology, among linguists and others, to begin such systematization. It begins the process of creating a format and standard for such work by offering ideas on a systematic framework. And, it suggests the processes of organizing a united effort among the community of anthropologists, linguists, sociologists and other social scientists, lawyers and human rights professionals to offer this professional and tangible measure of the threats to cultures.

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