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International conference on preservation of world languages in cyberspace successfully ended in Yakutsk

15 July 2019

The International Conference on Preservation of World Languages in Cyberspace took place from 1 to 5 July 2019, bringing together representatives from 60 countries. It emphasized the importance of Multilinguism in Cyberspace as a contributing element to knowledge societies.

The Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme, the Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University, the Interregional Library Cooperation Centre and UNESCO Chair on Language Policies for Multilingualism co-hosted the international conference around the theme "Preservation of World Languages and Development of Linguistic Diversity in Cyberspace: Context, Policy, Practice". The conference provided the opportunity to exchange information on the theme Multilinguism in Cyberspace, one of the Information for All Programme’s six priorities. The conference is organized for a fourth time in Yakutsk and is a timely event within the International Year of Indigenous Languages and the 65th anniversary of Russia's accession to UNESCO.

During his opening remarks, Mr Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, emphasized the importance of adapting “new technologies to the promotion and preservation of indigenous languages so that it can help to address some of humanity's most critical issues, including those related to education, science, culture, media, access to information, gender equality and many others".

Mr Evgeny Kuzmin, Vice-Chair, Intergovernmental Council of the UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP), said that Yakutia pays great attention to the issues of preserving the languages and cultures of all populations. "The republic is exemplary in this direction, and therefore it is not by chance that the conference is held in Yakutia," he said. On behalf of the Republic of Sakha, Mr Aisen Nikolaev, Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), highlighted that a separate state programme on preserving the languages of the indigenous peoples of the North will start working in Russia in 2020. "While preserving the best that we have, we must go forward, including the use of modern techniques, go with the languages of indigenous peoples to the Internet and cyberspace.”

The International Conference was composed of two plenaries and eight thematic sections dealing with challenges and opportunities in languages policies and globalization; philosophical and historical perspectives in languages and communication; creating language resources; languages in education; languages and the media; public activism and language policies; and multilingualism in the Russian Federation. It highlighted the importance of languages as a unique tool that enables people to comprehend and describe the world. Furthermore, languages are used to communicate and transmit knowledge; languages are repositories of historical and social experiences of nations, and act as socialization factor and means of human self-identification.

In spite of the importance of indigenous languages, almost half of the world’s languages are facing the risk of extinction, while still more languages are facing the risk of losing their role in many fields, i.e. education, science, culture, mass media, politics, record keeping, business and tourism.

IFAP encourages UNESCO Member States to consider language as a factor when formulating and implementing digital innovation policies and solutions to build fair knowledge societies and use appropriate tools to develop linguistic diversity and multilingualism in cyberspace.

UNESCO encourages decision makers during the international event, to take up the opportunities that the conference offer to advocate for innovative knowledge society policies that include multilingualism and concrete initiatives based on the Action Plan for the Organization of the International Year of indigenous Languages in 2019.