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04 2019: International Year of Indigenous Languages

posted Dec 28, 2018, 3:43 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 17, 2019, 6:51 PM ]
It is through language that we communicate with the world, define our identity, express our history and culture, learn, defend our human rights and participate in all aspects of society, to name but a few. Through language, people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking, meaning and expression. They also use it to construct their future. Language is pivotal in the areas of human rights protection, good governance, peace building, reconciliation, and sustainable development.

A person’s right to use his or her chosen language is a prerequisite for freedom of thought, opinion and expression, access to education and information, employment, building inclusive societies, and other values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many of us take it for granted that we can conduct our lives in our home languages, without any constraints or prejudice. But this is not the case for every one.

Of the almost 7,000 existing languages, the majority have been created and are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity. Yet, many of these languages are disappearing at an alarming rate, as the communities speaking them are confronted with assimilation, enforced relocation, educational disadvantage, poverty, illiteracy, migration and other forms of discrimination and human rights violations.

Given the complex systems of knowledge and culture developed and accumulated by these local languages over thousands of year, their disappearance would amount to losing a kind of cultural treasure. It would deprive us of the rich diversity they add to our world, and the ecological, economic and socio-cultural contribution they make.

More importantly, their loss would have a huge negative impact on the indigenous cultures concerned. It is for this reason and others that the United Nations chose to dedicate a whole year to indigenous languages, to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalise and promote them.

1. Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation.
2. Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regards to indigenous languages.
3. Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting.
4. Empowerment through capacity building.
5. Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.

Use of logos

Languages play an essential role in the daily lives of all people. Through language, people not only embed their history, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression, but more importantly, construct their future. Languages are pivotal in the areas of peace building, human rights enhancement, education, research, innovation, protection of the environment, and sustainable development. However, despite their value, languages, especial indigenous languages, are continuing to disappear at an alarming rate due to a variety of factors.

In response to the issue, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on ‘Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO) is the lead UN agency for the year.

Governments, intergovernmental organizations, and entities of civil society are encouraged to organise activities to support the International Year in accordance with the Action Plan proposed and to use the logo of the Year to promote its visibility. Registered partners can use the IY 2019 logo for their events, subject to approval. The logo is available in the six official United Nations languages.

Source: IYIL2019