A day to celebrate indigenous languages of the world
“The health of our languages is connected to the health of the earth […] We lose our connection and our ancient ways of knowing of the earth when our languages fall silent. […] for the sake of future generations, we must ensure they too can speak the language of our ancestors.”
On 1 February 2019, when the International Year of Indigenous Languages officially launched at the UN Headquarters in New York, Kanen’tó:kon Hemlock, Bear Clan Chief of the Mohawk Nation, in a moving speech, explained why indigenous languages matter. On 9 August, indigenous languages will once again hit the spotlight as the main theme of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, 5,000 are estimated to be indigenous languages. With fewer and fewer speakers actively using them, around half of these languages are in danger of falling silent forever.
Indigenous languages are extensive and complex systems of knowledge, including knowledge of our environment. Protecting languages means protecting biodiversity, cultures and livelihoods. But despite their immeasurable value, many languages are disappearing at alarming rates due to forced relocation of indigenous communities, disadvantages in education, illiteracy, and poverty affecting indigenous peoples.
This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples will showcase not only challenges, but also opportunities and innovative solutions for preserving and developing these unique tongues. It will highlight the fundamental importance of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to save and strengthen indigenous languages, traditions, cultures and communities.
The main celebrations of the International Day will take place on Friday, 9 August from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm in the ECOSOC Chamber at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Indigenous experts and guest speakers will discuss the role of indigenous language and present creative initiatives for their promotion, preservation, and revitalization. The event will be broadcast live on UN Web TV.
Meanwhile, at the main lobby of the UN Headquarters, an innovation hub will open its doors to showcase some of the most innovative approaches that promote the knowledge and use of indigenous languages. The interactive exhibit will feature games, apps, interactive maps, videos and more 21st century tools for preserving centuries-old languages.
International Youth Day 2019 – Transforming Education
Exactly 20 years ago, the UN General Assembly decided that 12 August shall henceforth be celebrated every year as the International Youth Day. At a time when the world is increasingly looking to young people as leaders and as a moral compass on everything from climate action to peacebuilding, to education, celebrating their achievements and engagement is more important than ever.
Over the last 20 years, the International Youth Day has engaged hundreds of thousands of young people on solving some of the world’s most pressing problems. It has also helped to highlight the challenges that prevent young people from realizing their potential. Previous International Youth Days shone the spotlight on such themes as “Safe Spaces for Youth,” “Youth Building Peace” and “Mental Health Matters.” This year, the focus is on “Transforming Education.”
Quality education that is inclusive and equitable is critical to preparing young people to be active, engaged citizens and learners throughout their lives. The International Youth Day will highlight the novel ways in which young people, youth-led organizations, governments and other partners are transforming education to achieve Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the surface, we are making remarkable progress towards ensuring quality education for all. In 2010, 63 per cent of children of adequate age were receiving early childhood or primary education. By 2016, that proportion grew to 70 per cent, meaning that millions more children were now going to school. But beneath these positive developments, a global learning crisis is lurking. According to the latest SDG Report compiled by UN DESA, 617 million children and adolescents – six out of every 10 – are not reaching minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.
Access to education needs to be expanded to include youth in vulnerable situations, whether caused by conflicts, poverty, disability or other factors. Education must pursue equity by reflecting traditionally marginalized perspectives, including those of cultural diversity and gender equality.
We must also move beyond thinking of education through the narrow economic lens. It should serve a broader purpose of fostering intellectual curiosity and critical engagement with sustainable development challenges. The faster the world acts on these challenges, the better our shared future will be, as the impact of education will last for the entire lifetime of today’s young people.
How to celebrate International Youth Day 2019
The official commemoration of International Youth Day 2019 is hosted by UN DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD), in collaboration with UNESCO. The event will hone in on inclusive education as part of the overall theme. Ensuring inclusive education means fully including young people from vulnerable groups or in vulnerable situations.
The event will feature an online discussion with UN representatives, members of academia and young experts. It will be open to everyone willing to discuss the ways of achieving inclusive education.
For more information about the International Youth Day, please visit: http://bit.ly/UN-IYD19 and follow @UN4Youth on Facebook and Twitter.
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