» On the 9th of August 2019, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, UNESCO celebrates indigenous l...
09.08.2019 - Oficina de la UNESCO en Montevideo

On the 9th of August 2019, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, UNESCO celebrates indigenous languages

This year is also the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which affirms that indigenous languages are important for development, peace building and reconciliation.

Furthermore, they are key elements of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the UNESCO Courier, Minnie Degawan, Igorote activist (Philippines) and Conservation International Director says “For indigenous peoples, languages not only identify their origin or membership in a community, they also carry the ethical values of their ancestors – the indigenous knowledge systems that make them one with the land and are crucial to their survival and to the hopes and aspirations of their youth.”

Although they make up only 5% of the global population, Indigenous Peoples speak the majority of the world’s 7000 languages. However, it is estimated that one indigenous language disappears every two week. In Latin America and the Caribbean alone, approximately 200 indigenous languages are in danger, according the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

But there is hope. Latin America’s Indigenous Peoples can work jointly with linguists, institutions and their governments on projects to reinforce, revitalize and even rescue their languages. Such language revitalization projects are happening throughout the region.

In Perú, UNESCO is working with the Government of Perú, the Peruvian news outlet Caretas and BBVA Foundation to launch the competition “The Story in 1000 Words” in all 48 of Perú’s indigenous languages.

UNESCO Montevideo Works with the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) on the project “Human History in Other Words” which aims to compile seven narratives on the history of humanity preserved and transmitted by traditional indigenous authorities of South America. In this activity the importance of safeguarding indigenous languages as vehicles of intangible heritage and knowledge is demonstrated.

In Nicaragua, the UNESCO Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Programme worked with the Ministry of Education to produce sets of educational materials in the Panamahka language and build capacity of bilingual teachers in their use in order to reinforce and promote the oral and written use of their mother tongue.

On this International Day of Indigenous Peoples, the importance of indigenous languages is celebrated throughout the entire world:


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