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Towards the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

UNESCO and the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples co-organized open consultations in Geneva to brainstorm on an Action Plan for the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. The International Year has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. UNESCO will establish a Steering Committee for preparation of the Action Plan. The participants agreed, that in additional to the Steering Committee, national task forces would have a crucial role to play in the mainstreaming the spirit of the International Year at national level. 


The attendees raised ideas on the mapping of indigenous languages worldwide to make them visible, and to include systematically the use and the right to use indigenous languages at all levels, and within the educational systems of states, including through internationally recognized immersion methods. Participants touched upon numerous elements for inclusion to the Action Plan: ensuring indigenous place names recognition, use of ICT’s and cyberspace, interlinkages between languages and other rights. 

According to the attendees’ interventions, the Action Plan should go beyond festivals and cultural events, and include strong advocacy element. In addition, there was a common understanding, that the International Year should be implemented at all levels, and must involve grassroots level practitioners, in particular teachers, and most vulnerable groups of indigenous peoples, in particular persons with disabilities.


Participants also touched upon the funding sorses, including potential establishment of an indigenous peoples’ led fund, where states can donate own contributions. The representative of Permanent Mission of Estonian in Geneva proposed to expand the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples in order for states to be able to forward earmarked contributions for the International Year. Another option is to receive earmarked voluntary contributions from states in UNESCO itself which would be used for the implementation of the 2019 Year related activities. Several participants also proposed to engage with the private sector and cooperate with the interested companies, which already have programmes to support indigenous languages. Some participants expressed concerns, that only researchers and global level activists will benefit from the funding. Although, it was mentioned, that the research is very useful for showcasing the value of indigenous languages, and for revitalization and monitoring proposes.

Chair of the Center Young Karelia, UN independent expert Alexey Tsykarev co-moderated open consultations. 

Read more about the topic on the UNESCO's website.