To the question "How can indigenous peoples across the world who have perhaps the greatest wisdom to impart in respect of sustainable development be effectively brought into the education and training process?", Mrs. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, responded:
"In the unique cosmologies of indigenous peoples as in their worldviews of how people and nature co-exist, there is great wisdom on sustainable living. This is my firm belief and it is the conviction guiding UNESCO.
The territories of indigenous peoples continue to harbour much of the world’s biodiversity. It is unacceptable that many formal education systems around the world contribute to the erosion of indigenous languages, knowledge and ways of life. Many indigenous youth have no choice but to attend schools where mainstream languages are the only medium of communication, and where the knowledge of their forefathers is excluded. The consequences in alienation and loss of identity are well documented. Through its programme on Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS), UNESCO is working with indigenous communities and Ministries of Education to ensure that education safeguards and supports indigenous livelihoods and worldviews. In the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve of Nicaragua, the indigenous knowledge of the Mayangna people has been gathered into two richly-illustrated volumes in the Mayangna language – these are now being integrated into school curricula. In the Solomon Islands, a wiki has been created in the local language based on the indigenous knowledge of the peoples of Marovo Lagoon. Teacher and students in remote rural Marovo are accessing, revising and upgrading the wiki -- thus, reinforcing the transmission of traditional knowledge and language from village Elders to youth. These initiatives are vital for the sustainable development of our planet – we cannot afford the further loss of the knowledge and wisdom held by local and indigenous peoples."
Extract from the interview published in 'Planet B: Education' Magazine
- Full interview (in PDF)