‘Preserve, revitalize and promote’ indigenous languages, or lose a ‘wealth of traditional knowledge’, UN chief says

Photo: Dmitry Kharakka-Zaitsev “Izhor” Indigenous people in Russia keep they language and traditions.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the urgency to “preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages” in his message for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on Friday.

“Languages are how we communicate, and they are inextricably linked to our cultures, histories and identity”, the UN chief said, noting that 2019 also marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

He pointed out that almost half of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages, which are mostly indigenous, risk extinction. “With every language that disappears, the world loses a wealth of traditional knowledge” said Mr. Guterres.

Noting that a significant proportion of the estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world today “still lack basic rights, with systematic discrimination and exclusion continuing to threaten ways of life, cultures and identities”, the UN chief stressed that this contradicts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “with its promise to leave no one behind”.

Offering the UN’s support to realize “the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples”, the Secretary-General concluded: “I count on Member States to engage and support indigenous peoples in determining their own development through policies that are inclusive, equitable and accessible”.

Education ‘pivotal’

As part of this year’s commemoration, the UN organized an event at its Headquarters in New York featuring expert panels and innovators on indigenous languages and technology.  But it opened with a ceremonial call to order by Chief Howard Thompson of the United States’ Mohawk Nation.

“People listen for a few moments”, he said. “This is our way when we gather anywhere to give thanks”.

He began by first acknowledging that everyone had “arrived safely and are healthy” before giving thanks to Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, the stars and the creator, saying “we give thanks daily because it may not be here tomorrow”.

When Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed took the podium, she zeroed-in on the “pivotal role” of education for indigenous people to “enjoy and preserve their culture and identity.

“Intercultural and multi-lingual education are necessary to prevent irreparable loss”, she said. “Failure to provide multilingual and inter-cultural education puts indigenous peoples at a disadvantage, threatening their very survival”.

Ms. Mohammed accentuated that more must be done to enable indigenous languages to flourish, “so we may retain the wealth of knowledge and cultures that are part of the world’s rich diversity”.

“On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to work together to realize the rights of indigenous peoples”, she concluded.

Symbols of identity

Through a video message, General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa called indigenous people “the bearers of millenary knowledge systems” where ancient and distinct languages are central.

More than a means of communication, they also provide “unique ways to see and understand the world” she stated. “They are symbols of identity and belonging; they are vehicles of values to transmit culture and connecting the indigenous peoples with nature”.

And these languages are all vulnerable, many “seriously endangered” or “on the brink of extinction”, according to Ms. Espinosa. “Others, unfortunately, have already been lost forever, taking the wisdom of their peoples with them”, she lamented.

Painting a picture of indigenous languages as “a priceless heritage and a vehicle of ancestral knowledge” on culture, medicine and astronomy , which is “vital to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda”, she stressed that “we must defend” their rights and respect their way of life as it is “closely linked to the survival of their languages”.

Linking biological and cultural diversity

For her part, Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Secretariat chief of the Convention on Biological Diversity, highlighted that although they constitute a relatively small part of the world’s population, indigenous people represent “the largest portion of linguistic and cultural diversity on Earth and their traditional lands and waters overwhelmingly contain the greatest remaining reserves of biodiversity”.

She maintained that the International Day draws attention to their powerful contribution to preserving biodiversity: “It allows us to tell the story of how these communities…have been stewards of biodiversity for millennia, responsible for preserving and even increasing biodiversity through their traditional management practices”, she acknowledged.

Linking biological and cultural diversity, she spelled out that the resilience of human communities and ecosystems are under “grave threat”.

“The colourful tapestry of life is fading like watercolours in the rain”, she bemoaned. “The loss of indigenous, traditional and local languages is closely related to biodiversity loss”.

Moreover, she stated that their local and traditional communities’ languages are “representative of diverse world views, value systems and cultural expressions”.

“Let us commit ourselves to restoring indigenous languages as the vibrant colours of the tapestry of life”, she urged.

In closing, Ms. Palmer emphasized the “centrality of traditional and indigenous languages in strengthening the links between biological and cultural diversity for attaining the global 2050 vision of humanity living in harmony with nature”.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

5 creative alternatives to plastic packaging

UN chief condemns student abductions in north-west Cameroon

How the gender commuting gap could be harming women’s careers

These 11 companies are leading the way to a circular economy

Here’s how we get businesses to harmonize on climate change

A Sting Exclusive: “Regional Policy: a fully-fledged investment policy”, Commissioner Cretu reveals live from European Business Summit 2015

How the mobile industry is driving climate progress on the scale of a major economy

These countries are leading the way in green finance

Movius @ MWC14: Discussing novel Communications Applications over a “CAFÉ”

International Day of the Midwife: 5 things you should know

UN Security Council welcomes results of Mali’s presidential elections

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Residents and visitors to this Dutch neighborhood could share a pool of cars and bikes

Rising insecurity in Central Africa Republic threatens wider region, Security Council told

Medical education during COVID-19 pandemic

Horn of Africa: UN chief welcomes Djibouti agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal is bad for US business. Here’s why.

Mental distress during the pandemic: is there a way out?

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

Commission reaches agreement with collaborative economy platforms to publish key data on tourism accommodation

European Commission presents comprehensive approach for the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation

Migration crisis, a human crisis after all

EU consumers will soon be able to defend their rights collectively

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate Change needs to be demystified”, Anneli Jättenmäki Vice President of European Parliament underscores from Brussels

Commission statement on the European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism

Ηealth’s foundation is falling apart: what can we do about it?

MWC19 Wrap Up, in association with The European Sting, GSMA’s Brussels Media Partner for the 6th Consecutive Year

Does hosting a World Cup make economic sense?

Cyprus tragedy reveals Eurozone’s arbitrary functioning

5 inventions that could transform the health of our ocean

Yemen: ‘A great first step’ UN declares as aid team accesses grain silo which can feed millions

It’s time to end our ‘separate but unequal’ approach to mental health

Education remains an impossible dream for many refugees and migrants

iSting: Change Europe with your Writing

Now doctors can manipulate genetics to modify babies, is it ethical?

One more country to test the EU project: Kaczynski’s Poland

4 ways leaders are driving innovation in the public sector and revolutionising governance

10 of Albert Einstein’s best quotes

Will Boris Johnson’s victory lead to a no-deal Brexit or is there still time?

How 2020 taught businesses to place empathy before profit

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

Korea should improve the quality of employment for older workers

These companies can recycle nearly anything, from cigarette butts to fax machines

Cancer research put at risk by General Data Protection Regulation? The possible dangers of a data privacy EU mania

75 years after Auschwitz liberation, antisemitism still threatens ‘foundations of democratic societies’

This new form of currency could transform the way we see money

The Japanese have a word to help them be less wasteful – ‘mottainai’

Look no hands: self-driving vehicles’ public trust problem

Why Eurozone can afford spending for growth

Lack of involvement, or lack of opportunities?

3 reasons why responsibly-deployed technology is key to the COVID recovery

As Saudi women take the wheel, UN chief hopes end of driving ban creates more opportunities for kingdom’s women and girls

This is what the world’s CEOs think about the global outlook

EU Budget 2019: no deal before the end of the conciliation period

Sudan Partnership Conference: EU mobilises more support for Sudan’s transition

MWC 2016 LIVE: T-Mobile US reveals 5G trial plans

Parliament cuts own spending to facilitate agreement on EU budget

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) of 22/05/2018: EU relations with key trading partners

EU mobilises €21 million to support Palestine refugees via the UN Relief and Works Agency

These photos show some of the world’s smallest things massively magnified

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s