A number of countries go no further than proclaiming the principle of non-discrimination for all citizens. Consider, if you will, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which, in article 2, sets forth the principle that citizens cannot be discriminated against because of language or, in more legal parlance, because of "linguistic affiliation":

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Non-discrimination applies to all persons and often represents the only individual guarantee granted by states in the area of language protection. As such, language management meshes with the management of human rights. On the up side, the approach gives states a relatively clear conscience without shackling them with heavy-handed legislation.

The down side, however, is the intrinsic generality of the non-discrimination principle, which opens the way to much interpretation and falls outside the realm of executory law (what actually has to be applied). In other words, even when a state recognizes this type of general provision, the country's leaders may see it as optional, not binding-especially in authoritarian regimes.

Still, a general statement on non-discrimination is the most common approach used in treaties, conventions and declarations.

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