23 April 2019
Mahai Reoreo (Greetings) Madam Chair,
We, the indigenous peoples’ organizations in Asia, welcome the efforts made so far for the commemoration of International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 with UNESCO as the lead UN entity. We also appreciate the partnerships forged among States, indigenous peoples, the UN system and other stakeholders for the International Year, particularly at the international level.
Two-thirds of the world’s indigenous population lives in Asia, accounting for about 411 million people. We speak many different languages, some of which are on the verge of extinction or critically endangered or face other threats. The commemoration of the International Year to bring attention to the urgent need to preserve and promote indigenous languages and to emphasize the right to language as a human right for all peoples is therefore of crucial importance.
To be able to communicate in one’s language is fundamental to human dignity and freedom of expression. Indigenous peoples’ languages are crucial to indigenous knowledge, histories and philosophies, spiritual traditions, governance, well-being and identity.
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