PARIS — The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages with an official proclamation and launch at UNESCO in Paris, France Monday.
The proclamation comes as part of a campaign through the UN to raise global attention on the critical risks confronting indigenous languages.
The official launch event saw speakers of indigenous languages from around the world gathered to proclaim the importance indigenous languages have on the identity of indigenous people around the world. The UNESCO launch event focused on the theme of “indigenous languages matter for sustainable development, peace building and reconciliation” providing a global forum for debate and international synergy to indigenous language preservation and revitalization.
In a joint statement, Indigenous federal Ministers Pablo Rodriguez, Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism and Minister Carolyn Bennett, Crown-Indigenous Relations articulated that “most indigenous languages in Canada today are endangered. They are endangered as a result of past government laws, policies and actions including the Indian Act, residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.”
“Reclaiming and revitalizing Indigenous languages is a crucial step in our country’s shared journey of reconciliation. It is important to move forward together quickly, which is why the Government of Canada has already invested a historic $90 million for Indigenous languages initiatives, including funding for Indigenous literacy programs and language revitalization projects,” said the statement.
According to UN statistics there are approximately 7000 languages around the world. A staggering 97% of the world’s population speaks only 4% of those languages — meaning the remaining 96% of the worlds indigenous languages are spoken by just 3% of the human population.
In brief the UN says there are approximately 370 million indigenous people in the world making up 5000 distinctive indigenous cultures. Nearly 2680 of those cultures have languages that are in danger of extinction.
UN making this years proclamation the promotion and protection of indigenous languages hopes to achieve objectives set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030.