UNESCO launched the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL) with a rich programme on 28 January 2019 at the Organization’s Headquarters in Paris France. This Official Global Launch Event was the first of a series of events that encourage all stakeholders to respond appropriately to challenges related to indigenous languages and promoting and protecting the right of indigenous peoples to preserve and develop their respective languages.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (Ref.: 71/178) in order to raise global attention about the critical risks confronting indigenous languages, and their significance for sustainable development, reconciliation, good governance and peacebuilding. The International Year on Indigenous Languages is therefore an important occasion for strengthening international cooperation in those areas.
Several debates took place during the day including Open Roundtable discussions in which a wide range of subjects, such as making technological innovations accessible for indigenous language speakers, promoting access to information and knowledge in indigenous languages and the role and contribution of academia and public organizations in the preservation, access and support of indigenous languages were discussed. Special attention was given as well to the activities of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) in promoting multilingualism in cyberspace.
The session on increasing access to information and knowledge in indigenous languages saw the participation of the Director of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for the Arabic Language, the Executive Director of Folk Alliance International and of the Vice-Chair of the intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP), Mr Evgeny Kuzmin. In his intervention, Mr Kuzmin stressed the importance of celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages as an opportunity to bring to the attention of the public the importance of multilingualism and linguistic diversity. ‘We have to use these opportunities to the full and offer the world such a vision of the value of the languages to the forefront. We have to offer the world a human and noble language policy which will let people use their potential in the languages of their choice, so that their dignity is not derogated, and languages are not used for the purposes of domination, suppression and separation’, he said.
IFAP encourages its Member States to duly take cultural and linguistic diversity into account when formulating and implementing digital innovation policies and solutions and use appropriate tools to promote linguistic diversity and multilingualism in cyberspace. IFAP also advocates through policy recommendations the entry of new languages into the digital world, the creation and dissemination of content in local languages in cyberspace. The Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace is an important normative instrument that recognizes that linguistic diversity in technology and universal access to information in cyberspace are at the core of contemporary debates and can be a determining factor in the development of a knowledge-based society.