03.08.2019 - UNESCO Office in Addis Ababa

Promoting Indigenous Languages - African Regional Meeting on the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

Addis Ababa – 31 July:  UNESCO and African Union (AU) though its specialized language agency –ACALAN- organize an African Regional

Meeting on International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) at the AU Head Quarters in the Addis Ababa, from 30-31 July 2019.

In her opening speech Ms Ana Elisa Santana Afonso, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office to AU and ECA in Addis Ababa noted, “UNESCO believes that indigenous languages represent national strategic assets that could be unlocked in order to contribute to smart local, regional as well as national and international development”.  She further said that indigenous languages have the potential to benefit humanity as a whole by providing “original solutions to contemporary challenges”. Hence, she stressed promoting and preserving indigenous languages is a “means of leaving no one behind”.

The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, H.E. Amira Elfadil, on her part said, “Our linguistic identity is part and parcel of our regional cultural heritage and is indeed a core value of our integration and development process.” She further reiterated that AU are “greatly encouraged and eager to continue collaborating with UNESCO and other organizations to ensure that this goal is realized through our active participation in the implementation process, since it is for the betterment of our children and the future of Africa at large. However, she noted that in the context of Africa, the term “Indigenous Languages” need to be replaced by “African Languages” as the former “has a colonial connotation.

On the meeting, UNESCO IFAP Chair Ms. Dorothy Gordon called on member states to use technology in creating online content in local languages. She said, "We need to promote our indigenous languages on the cyber spaces." 

The Year 2019 was proclaimed as the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations Resolution 71/178 of 19 December 2016, in order to draw attention to the serious loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them. Moreover, the UN designated UNESCO as the lead agency to support the organization of the International Year of Indigenous Languages and related international and regional events such as the African IYIL2019.

The African Regional Meeting on IYI2019 brought together a diverse range of stakeholders, including representatives of ACALAN’s working structures in the national governments of member states of the African Union, Indigenous organizations, scholars and experts in the field of Indigenous languages, and others for a constructive dialogue on Indigenous languages and related issues in the African regions. These includes human rights and fundamental freedoms, and challenges and solution.

The Meeting will contribute to the preparation of the Strategic Outcomes Document for the implementation of the Action Plan for Organizing the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.  

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