Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
New York, 16–27 April 2018
Item 3 of the provisional agenda*
Follow-up to the recommendations of the Permanent Forum
Action plan for organizing the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages
Note by the Secretariat
In its resolution 71/178, on the rights of indigenous peoples, the General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This decision was based on a recommendation of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Assembly resolution requested the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to serve as the United Nations lead organization for the International Year.
The purpose of the present action plan is to lay the foundation for implementing resolution 71/178. It outlines actions and measures to be taken together by United Nations entities, Governments, indigenous peoples’ organizations, broader civil society, academia, the private sector and other interested actors in order to achieve the major objectives of the International Year. The action plan is aimed at contributing to realizing indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide, as stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including by engaging the United Nations system in support of Member States.
Pursuant to resolution 71/178, UNESCO has facilitated the development of the action plan through detailed and open consultations with representatives of interested Member States, indigenous peoples, United Nations entities, research specialists, civil society organizations and other public and private actors. The International Year is an important international cooperation mechanism dedicated to raising awareness of a particular topic or theme of international interest or concern and mobilizing different players for coordinated action around the world.
B. Purpose of the action plan
C. Key principles of the action plan
• Centrality of indigenous peoples (“Nothing for us without us”), according to the principle of self-determination and the potential to develop, revitalize and transmit to future generations the languages that reflect the insights and values of indigenous peoples, as well as their knowledge systems and cultures
• Compliance with international normative instruments and standards, in particular taking into consideration the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples
• Joint action “delivering as one” in the spirit of enhancing efficient and coherent delivery across the United Nations system, in partnership with the Permanent Forum, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders, as well as integrating the United Nations normative and operational mandates on the rights of indigenous peoples, working in collaboration with United Nations country teams
• Building on the strengths of multi-stakeholder partnerships at all levels in order to foster synergies, adequate responses and leadership
• A holistic approach guided by the programming principles underlying United Nations project delivery, namely a human rights-based approach and an accompanying legal framework, and embracing cultural sensitivity, gender equality, disability-inclusiveness and a paradigm which encourages both capacity-building and environmental sustainability
• Synergy among different international development frameworks, as well as documents related to sustainable development, reconciliation and peacebuilding, including the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, the Education 2030 Framework for Action, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the New Urban Agenda, the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance (2006), the Plan of Action on Cultural and Creative Industries in Africa (2008), Agenda 2063, the outcome of the World Summit on Information Society, including the Geneva Plan of Action, the Tunis Commitment and other documents of the Open Consultation Process on Overall Review of the Implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society Outcomes, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (especially target 18, on traditional knowledge), other multilateral processes and implementation of other plans and strategies
• Results-based management prioritizing actions and interventions for maximum positive impact.
II. Guiding framework
A. Multi-stakeholder partnership
20. The multi-stakeholder partnership for the International Year will involve the following stakeholders:
• Member States
• Indigenous peoples’ representatives, including designated representatives from the seven sociocultural regions, and other indigenous peoples’ organizations
• United Nations entities, including representatives of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, as appropriate
• Indigenous-specific United Nations three-party mechanisms, namely the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
• Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
• Civil society
• Public institutions and the private sector
• Other organizations.
21. The multi-stakeholder partnership would have a structure comprising:
• A steering committee to provide guidance and oversee overall implementation of the action plan
• Ad hoc group(s) to provide advice on specific aspects of the action plan’s implementation
• Partners to contribute to the implementation of the action plan.
B. Role of the steering committee
22. UNESCO will facilitate the implementation process for the International Year, in collaboration with the steering committee, which will be established as an international multi-stakeholder entity. The steering committee will elect a chair and vice-chair, and be supported by the secretariat of UNESCO in implementing the action plan.
23. The steering committee will consist of the representatives and alternates (18 in total):
• Interested Member States (1 chair and 5 vice-chairs)
• Leaders and representatives of indigenous peoples and institutions from the seven sociocultural regions (1 co-chair and 6 vice-chairs)
• Designated members (1 representing the Permanent Forum; the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; and 1 from the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)
• UNESCO (secretariat) and Department of Economic and Social Affairs (advisory role).
24. The steering committee will provide guidance on the overall implementation of the International Year, including, but not limited to, the following functions:
• Elaboration of the action plan
• Guidance for, and monitoring of, the Plan’s implementation
• Monitoring of new requests for Steering Committee membership, including by other organizations, institutions, NGOs and major international stakeholders on an ad hoc basis
• Assistance for the mobilization of financial resources
• Periodic updates, feedback and stimulation of dialogue with partners, using remote communication means when appropriate
• Oversight of the report to the United Nations on the implementation of the International Year, as well as of legacy documents
• Supporting the establishment of indigenous peoples’ own initiatives in terms of their contributions to the preparations for the International Year
• Preparation of a follow-up or monitoring proposal for the International Year.
25. The following principles are to be taken into consideration for the establishment of the steering committee:
• Involvement of indigenous peoples’ representatives
• Geographical balance, equal opportunities for men and women, and disability inclusiveness
• Expertise and competence in the field of languages and other relevant domains.
26. Regional, national and/or thematic stakeholder networks, as well as working groups focused on specific indigenous language-related issues, may also be established, including national or community steering committees and potentially including representatives of Government, indigenous peoples, United Nations country teams and other public-private actors. This will be done through communities and indigenous organizations which represent speakers of indigenous languages, the national commissions of UNESCO, UNESCO Chairs, the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network, centres of excellence, institutes, academic or public institutions, the private sector and other institutional and individual partners.
III. Elements of the action plan
A. Major objective of the International Year
27. The 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages will be a yearlong series of activities whose impetus will be carried forward to future months and years:
• Focusing global attention on the critical risks confronting indigenous languages and the significance of such risks for sustainable development, reconciliation, good governance and peacebuilding
• Targeting steps which will lead to improved quality of life, enhanced international cooperation and strengthened intercultural dialogue, and reaffirming cultural and linguistic continuity
• Delivering increased capacities on the part of all stakeholders to take concrete and sustainable measures at every level to support, access and promote indigenous languages around the world in accordance with the legitimate rights of indigenous peoples.
28. The International Year will take the form of action-oriented activities in the following three thematic areas, which encompass both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
• Support for the revitalization and maintenance of indigenous languages through measures to guarantee more materials, expanded content and a wider range of services, using language technologies and information and communications technologies, where appropriate, in order to improve everyday use of indigenous languages and encourage best practice, equality and proficiency in their use (support)
• Preservation of indigenous languages, access to education, information and knowledge in and about indigenous languages for indigenous children, young people and adults, improvement of data collection and sharing of information in and about indigenous languages, using language technology and other communication and information mechanisms (access)
• Mainstreaming the knowledge areas and values of indigenous peoples and cultures within broader sociocultural, economic and political domains, applying specific language technologies and other relevant methods of communication and information, as well as cultural practices such as traditional sports and games, which can provide enhanced access and empowerment for indigenous language speakers (promotion).
B. Impact and objectives
29. The International Year will be found to have contributed, including over the long term, to the support of, access to and promotion of indigenous languages and to a concrete improvement in the lives of indigenous peoples by strengthening the capacities of indigenous language speakers and relevant indigenous peoples’ organizations. It will also move other stakeholders to take appropriate action in support of indigenous languages and encourage them towards attaining the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, and other normative frameworks.
30. It is also expected that Member States, indigenous peoples, civil society, academia, public institutions and the private sector, as well as other stakeholders, will make concrete commitments to support, provide access to and promote indigenous languages, including by offering financial support for related activities through existing funding modalities.
31. More specifically, it is expected such an impact will include:
• A world which, at the global, national and local levels, awards the honour and respect of official status to linguistic diversity and indigenous languages on the grounds that they are essential for the enjoyment of human rights and individual freedoms, and for reconciliation and peacebuilding
• Indigenous peoples, tribes and nations will be more empowered to ensure better transmission of indigenous languages to future generations, while other actors will better appreciate and leverage the vital contribution of indigenous languages to improving and shaping key United Nations development outcomes, as well as make every effort, through modern technology and traditional ways (e.g. traditional sports and games) to preserve, promote and revitalize indigenous languages
• A more enabling environment will be created, at the national, regional and global levels, using a range of institutions, structures and mechanisms, representing indigenous peoples, tribes and nations, to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages, as well as to adopt policy frameworks, legislation, ethical accessibility standards and other benchmarks or indices that reduce inequalities and at least mitigate discrimination against speakers of indigenous languages
• Individuals, including those belonging to indigenous communities, driven by shared human values and reinforced with self-identified competencies, will be measurably more likely to thrive and prosper in a diverse and rapidly changing world. Special attention will be paid to making available appropriate tools such as creative educational initiatives, traditional sports and games and other devices which help in the transmission of indigenous languages and to empowering indigenous children and their parents, youth leaders, girls and women, persons with disabilities and people in migrant situations.
C. Main areas of intervention
32. During the period 2018–2020, the following five main intervention areas, each with its own associated outcomes, outputs and activities, are envisaged in the action plan, and will be set out in a subsequent workplan:
Intervention area 1
Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation
Increased understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation among different stakeholders through coordinated advocacy and awareness-raising programmes focused on upholding and reinforcing the human rights of indigenous language speakers, deploying necessary resources and robust data through national statistics institutions, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international and national laws related to indigenous peoples and multilingualism, and other relevant normative instruments and strategies.
1.1. Encouraged international cooperation among South-North and South-South partners, emphasizing the participation of organizations or networks of indigenous peoples and other relevant organizations or networks, thereby stimulating global debate on the importance of mainstreaming indigenous languages towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the relevant Sustainable Development Goals.
1.2. Established new and innovative public-private partnerships and practitioner communities as focal points within societies in order to support, promote and empower indigenous peoples, through greater access to multilingual information and knowledge, and in particular targeting outstanding exemplars such as those who have won distinction as Olympic athletes or other champions and practitioners of various sports and games, including traditional ones.
1.3. Sustained the traditional ceremonies of indigenous peoples and more broadly supported their cultural heritage through enhanced cooperation among cultural bodies, i.e. information centres, libraries and memory organizations, together with faith-based institutions, youth bodies and creative industries, including music, dance, sports, photography and poetry, and by building closer links with indigenous artists and their networks, and cooperating with the private sector.
1.4. Strengthened international cooperation among various partners to operationalize data collection, storage and evaluation with regard to indigenous languages, liaising with existing ongoing statistical and data collection initiatives.
Intervention area 2
Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regard to indigenous languages
Delivered support, through the development of improved tools, contents and services, towards the sharing and enhancement of information, research and understanding about indigenous languages, conditional upon the involvement and active participation of the holders of such languages and knowledge, and additionally stimulated collaboration between relevant stakeholders in monitoring progress across all relevant fields, facilitated through improved data collection and evaluation.
2.1. Promoted principles and frameworks which support ethical dissemination of indigenous knowledge through existing international mechanisms for the protection of intellectual property and other means of disseminating information, including online platforms.
2.2. Raised awareness of the significance of indigenous language issues within the context of the international, regional and national development agendas and plans, through the impact generated by special events and mechanisms such as international days, cultural or sporting festivals, traditional sports and games events, and intergovernmental programmes which provide a platform for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices.
2.3. Stimulated the development of appropriate knowledge-sharing platforms and the creation of language technologies and digital resources which support, promote and make more accessible indigenous languages, personal self-esteem and pride, and facilitate their use in different sociocultural, economic and environmental situations.
2.4. Provided support at the technical level for statistics that can be readily and effectively operationalized to assess demographic trends, the status of particular languages and changes in linguistic diversity.
Intervention area 3
Integration of indigenous languages into standard-setting
Strengthened national and regional capacities to assess and mainstream indigenous languages and, as far as possible, to integrate them into national policies, strategic plans and regulatory frameworks.
3.1. Provided assistance for policy analysis, monitoring and programme delivery in education, culture, science, social and human sciences, and communication and information, alongside other relevant fields such as employment, health care and social inclusion, in alignment with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and other international, regional and national perspectives, and United Nations declarations and initiatives, all targeted comprehensively at supporting, promoting and making accessible indigenous languages.
3.2. Elaborated practical guidelines to deliver and monitor policy measures taken to support, promote and make accessible indigenous languages, as well ensured that indigenous languages are used in teaching, research and administration.
3.3. Ensured that indigenous languages are documented with the active participation of the language holders and, where possible, indigenous peoples are empowered to make informed decisions about the self-recording and documentation of their languages and the further utilization of records in the public domain.
Intervention area 4
Empowerment through capacity-building
Delivered expanded educational capacity to provide more equitable and inclusive access to education in areas where indigenous languages and traditional knowledge feature prominently, the improvements being derived from new and open educational resources associated with relevant learning strategies, progressive teaching methods and teacher education, and a wide range of language tools and materials, from traditional methods to cutting-edge information and communications technology solutions.
4.1. Reinforced institutional capacity and readiness to put in place inclusive educational policies with a view to raising professional standards at all educational levels, including in the field of lifelong learning, and providing inclusive education to all learners.
4.2. Trained more and better qualified teachers and education specialists as a result of targeted educational policy interventions, including those suited especially to addressing the needs of younger learners, girls and women, persons with disabilities, and those in migrant situations.
4.3. Developed new and open educational resources to facilitate teaching and learning in indigenous languages, as well as integrating indigenous cultures and traditional knowledge into mainstream educational courses and programmes, and creating bespoke writing systems for indigenous languages to improve learning.
4.4. Supported formulation, review and implementation of coherent polices to develop a complete linguistic framework for indigenous languages which will promote research into those languages, as well as enhance the ability of indigenous professionals to teach in their mother tongue, and developed the skills of indigenous peoples necessary for participation in educational decision-making.
4.5. Encouraged participatory and creative initiatives, fostering dissemination and teaching of indigenous languages involving popular traditional cultural and ritual practices, whether transmitted orally or in writing, e.g. traditional sports and games, and used traditional practices, such as advocates of traditional sports and games, for inclusive lifelong learning opportunities and dynamic forms of values-based education, nurturing intercultural and intergenerational dialogues.
Intervention area 5
Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge
Engaged and encouraged the global academic and scientific community to leverage the value residing in the intellectual assets and cultural and linguistic heritage of indigenous peoples both for their own benefit and for wider society on a national, regional and global scale.
5.1. Expanded and enriched the knowledge base by introducing contributions from the indigenous cultural and linguistic heritage, and embedding them in national, regional and global development perspectives and strategies.
5.2. Promoted the exchange of scientific knowledge and sharing between cultures, with a view to their reconciliation and subsequent integration into policymaking and decision-making processes.
5.3. Alerted stakeholders to pay increased regard to a wide range of perspectives affecting indigenous languages and cultures, with particular reference to the perspectives and statements of United Nations entities and other institutions.
D. Key outputs
33. The action plan foresees the following detailed but not necessarily comprehensive listing of outputs and activities:
• Communication kit for the International Year (logo, guidelines and publicity materials)
• Official International Year website to showcase communication campaigns (including on social media), short documentary films and other audiovisual materials; a calendar of events, notably mobilizing cultural and traditional resources around the world; relevant research; and best practices
• International Year launch event, closing ceremony and other special events around the world
• Flagship publication on Indigenous Languages around the World (paper and electronic versions)
• Additional published data and research outcomes on traditional knowledge and issues relating to indigenous languages
• Nomination of International Year ambassadors, language champions and promoters
• Involvement of Goodwill Ambassadors and Artists for Peace from UNESCO and other United Nations system organizations for the promotion of the International Year
• Involvement of indigenous Olympians, athletes and practitioners of traditional sports and games as role models or champions for indigenous languages, including those participating at the third World Indigenous Nations Games
• Involvement of UNESCO Chairs and the Associated Schools Project Network
• A series of media partnerships delivering both global and specialized media, cultural and film festivals
• Flagship initiatives launched by partners
• Linkages of the International Year with side events, such as international, regional and national conferences, summits, meetings, gatherings, cultural and sports events, and commemoration of international days
• Initiation of new international days such as an Indigenous Languages Day, if possible
• Showcase of new learning and teaching materials (such as teacher courses and dictionaries), a number of capacity-building workshops designed for teacher training institutions (including teachers in service) and launch of new language technologies
• Series of cultural events associated with International Year, including exhibitions, concerts, film festivals and screenings, and traditional sports and games festivals and contests
• A final report on implementation of the action plan at the end of International Year, informational documents on follow-up beyond 2019 to meet the requirements of the Executive Board of UNESCO and, additionally, if requested by Member States, of the General Assembly in 2020.
E. Participation modalities
1. Calendar of events
34. The action plan comprises a list of events, conferences and meetings which will be scheduled under the auspices of International Year according to the 15 event categories listed below and the expected outputs, as well as be linked to the road map towards strategic objectives (see annex). This categorization will provide a useful overview and also allow a greater coordination of efforts towards achieving the strategic objectives and the desired impact for the International Year.
2. Partnerships and support
35. The outreach of the International Year is global, attracting an audience from stakeholders, including governments, indigenous peoples, civil society, international and regional organizations, academia, the private sector, the media and others, all working within a viable budgetary framework.
36. Through engaging in the International Year, partners from the public and private sectors will benefit from worldwide visibility and association with the values of the United Nations in a truly global initiative, offering unique networking opportunities. Furthermore, the contributions of partners (in the form of financial and/or human resources) will allow UNESCO and associated partners to carry out coordinated activities which showcase the importance of indigenous languages for sustainable development, reconciliation and peacebuilding.
37. Different models will be proposed for stakeholder partnerships and support for the implementation of the International Year, including financial and non-financial voluntary contributions (the latter comprising volunteer programmes, secondment agreements, the loaning of experts, joint advocacy and knowledge exchange). All partner contributors will be highlighted prominently throughout the International Year and receive public acknowledgement.
38. Partners can provide significant in-kind support and may wish to target sponsorship for specific events or activities, for example, acting as a partner broker — opening pathways to other partners — to facilitate collaboration with additional public or private sector partners. There will be tailor-made sponsorship opportunities adaptable to the preferences of contributors, as long as the value of in-kind support, or the combined value of financial contributions and in-kind support, substantially adds to the end value accruing to the International Year. It should be noted that tailor-made sponsorship may include the support of certain specific high-profile events such as the opening and closing ceremony or conference).