United Nations Economic and Social Council. (2018). Action plan for organizing the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

United Nations Economic and Social Council. (2018). Action plan for organizing the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues No. E/C 18-02713). New York.

[Origins of International Year of Indigenous Languages …]

“In its resolution 71/178, on the rights of indigenous peoples, the General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This decision was based on a recommendation of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Assembly resolution requested the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to serve as the United Nations lead organization for the International Year.” (p 1)

[Importance of language …]

“Languages, with their complex implications for identity, cultural diversity, spirituality, communication, social integration, education and development, are of crucial importance for people and the planet. People not only embed in languages their history, traditions, memory, traditional knowledge, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression, but more importantly they also construct their future through them.” (p 2)

[Importance of language for human rights and freedoms …]

“Language is a core component of human rights and fundamental freedoms and is essential to realizing sustainable development, good governance, peace and reconciliation. A person’s freedom to use his or her chosen language is a prerequisite to freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and expression, access to education and information, employment and other values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (p 2)

[Number of Indigenous languages endangered …]

“According to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, no less than 40 per cent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken as of 2016 were in danger of disappearing.1 The fact that many of these are indigenous languages2 places at risk the indigenous cultures and knowledge systems to which those languages belong.3” (p 2)

[Characteristics and values specific to Indigenous languages …]

“Indigenous languages also represent complex systems of knowledge developed and accumulated over thousands of years. Local languages are indeed a kind of cultural treasure; they are repositories of diversity and key resources for both understanding the environment and utilizing it to the best advantage of local populations, as well as of humanity as a whole. They foster and promote local [page break] cultural specificities, customs and values which have endured for thousands of years.4” (p 2-3)

[Indigenous languages as world-views; preserve knowledge and sustainability …]

“Each indigenous language represents a unique system and framework for understanding the world. Elaborate vocabularies are constructed around topics of particular ecological, economic or sociocultural importance. Knowledge is often captured or encoded in specific words and therefore is not easily transferable between languages. The loss of an indigenous language can therefore mean the loss of vital knowledge which could be harnessed for human improvement and sustainable development.” (p 3)

[Promotion of *appropriate* beneficial technologies …]

“Support for the revitalization and maintenance of indigenous languages through measures to guarantee more materials, expanded content and a wider range of services, using language technologies and information and communications technologies, where appropriate, in order to improve everyday use of indigenous languages and encourage best practice, equality and proficiency in their use (support).” (p 8)

[Language preservation, archiving, transmission …]

“Preservation of indigenous languages, access to education, information and knowledge in and about indigenous languages for indigenous children, young people and adults, improvement of data collection and sharing of information in and about indigenous languages, using language technology and other communication and information mechanisms (access)” (p 8)

[Include cultural practices …]

“Mainstreaming the knowledge areas and values of indigenous peoples and cultures within broader sociocultural, economic and political domains, applying specific language technologies and other relevant methods of [page break] communication and information, as well as cultural practices such as traditional sports and games, which can provide enhanced access and empowerment for indigenous language speakers (promotion).” (p 8-9)

[International cooperation …]

“Strengthened international cooperation among various partners to operationalize data collection, storage and evaluation with regard to indigenous languages, liaising with existing ongoing statistical and data collection initiatives.” (p 10)

[Information sharing …]

“Promoted principles and frameworks which support ethical dissemination of indigenous knowledge through existing international mechanisms for the protection of intellectual property and other means of disseminating information, including online platforms.” (p 11)

[Knowledge-sharing to promote usage of indigenous languages …]

“Stimulated the development of appropriate knowledge-sharing platforms and the creation of language technologies and digital resources which support, promote and make more accessible indigenous languages, personal self-esteem and pride, and facilitate their use in different sociocultural, economic and environmental situations.” (p 11)

[Language documentation for benefit of language speakers. Respect for local decision-making …]

“Ensured that indigenous languages are documented with the active participation of the language holders and, where possible, indigenous peoples are empowered to make informed decisions about the self-recording and documentation of their languages and the further utilization of records in the public domain.” (p 11)

Selected References

  • 1. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “Indigenous languages”, backgrounder. Available at www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/2016/Docsupdates/backgrounderL2.pdf.
  • 2. Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “International expert group meeting on the theme indigenous languages: preservation and revitalization: articles 13, 14 and 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — 19 to 21 January 2016, New York”, concept note. Available at www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/2016/egm/Concept_Note_EGMLanguages_FINAL_rev.pdf.
  • 3. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Global Monitoring Report 2016: Education for People and Planet — Creating Sustainable Futures for All (Paris, 2016), available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf.
  • 4. Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), of the International Labour Organization.
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