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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

UNPFII22: Agenda Item 5(g) – Thematic dialogues: a) International Decade of Indigenous Languages

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 22nd Session
Agenda Item 5(g): Thematic dialogues: a) International Decade of Indigenous Languages
17 April 2023
Statement on behalf of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
By Shohel Hajong

I speak on behalf of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and welcome the proclamation of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages from 2022 to 2032. The Indigenous Peoples and organisations in Asia are working on several initiatives towards the same objectives as the decade and we further pledge our commitment to work with UNESCO and member states towards mobilizing stakeholders and resources for their preservation, revitalization and promotion.

Some of the Indigenous languages in Asia are on the verge of extinction or critically endangered due to various threats. Only 6 indigenous people speak in Rengmitcha language in Bangladesh, but all of them are more than 60 years old. When these six people die, this language will be lost from the country. Moreover, the International Mother Language Institute (IMLI), listed the 14 endangered languages in Bangladesh. The situation is almost the same in other countries’ Indigenous languages of Asia as well.

 To address the challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples, some of the Member States in Asia have undertaken remarkable efforts such as officially recognizing Indigenous languages and scripts, introducing Indigenous languages in the education system and using them in various creative media. This is in response to the initiatives and movement by Indigenous Peoples in. We call on the UNESCO country offices to facilitate the Member States at national and local levels to intervene in more actions to meet the objectives of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

The cultural diversity and richness have given the Indigenous Peoples a distinctive and enduring identity. The Indigenous Peoples’ language who are a minority by number is more at risk of language loss. However, in most Asian countries Indigenous Peoples are still the victim of eviction by State-led development projects, which affect dislocation from ancestral land, out-migration, damage of the socio-economic system, and loss of rich Indigenous cultural diversity as a whole.

In most of the states the education is imparted in the language of majority, and the language of minorities are neglected and suppressed which affect the early education of indigenous children. The digitalization of education system, has also impacted the education of indigenous youth, leading to school drop out of indigenous youth.

Our recommendations to member states, UNESCO, UNPFII and other relevant stakeholders,

  • To urge the government of the states in Asia to Initiate National Action Plans with budget allocations to protect, preserve and promote the indigenous languages at the country level
  • To support and implement additional urgent action, particularly for the indigenous languages at most risk.
  • To strengthen and build upon the affirmative actions for multilingual education and cultural preservation
  • To create favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices concerning indigenous languages.
  • Finally, to adopt a holistic human rights-based approach towards the protection of Indigenous languages.  

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