UNESCO launches the Global Action Plan of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032

On 18 December 2019, the United Nations General Assembly, in its Resolution 74/135 (A/RES/74/135) on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, proclaimed the period 2022-2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

Many languages are today in danger of falling into disuse. The gradual disappearance of languages, particularly Indigenous ones, is connected, in practice, to the structural discrimination to which they have been subjected, to the vulnerable situation of their users (speakers and signers), whose actual use of their own languages in everyday life depends on the daily reality of their socio-cultural, economic, political, environmental, and demographic situations. An urgent need exists, therefore, to protect, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages around the world.

The following observations contributed to the proclamation of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages:

Languages around the world continue to disappear at alarming rates. Many of those are Indigenous languages, which represent peoples’ identities, cultures and complex systems of knowledge developed and accumulated over thousands of years.

When peoples’ freedom to use their language is not guaranteed, this limits their freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and expression, including artistic expression, as well as their access to education, health and information, justice, decent employment, their participation in cultural life, and other rights.

The International Decade of Indigenous Languages offers us a unique opportunity to collaborate in policy development, to ensure continuity and coherence of actions and stimulate an intercultural dialogue in the true spirit of multi-stakeholder engagement, to contribute to making human rights a reality, and to take necessary measures in an interdisciplinary manner to support and strengthen Indigenous languages around the world.

The GLOBAL ACTION PLAN OF THE INTERNATIONAL DECADE OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES 2022-2032 is the roadmap for the implementation of the United Nations resolution which called for “urgent steps at the national and international levels” to “preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages”. It is the outcome document of the consultative processes set up to integrate different perspectives and it is meant to provide all stakeholders with the essential principles for embarking on joint action, as well as guidance on a conceptual framework, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and governance structures.

In July 2020, an ad hoc group for the preparation of the Global Action Plan was established. Its 81 members, one of which is LINGUAPAX INTERNATIONAL, include representatives of governments, national and regional public organizations working on indigenous language issues, Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, academia, civil society and other public and private institutions, as well as international organizations.

From November 2020 to May 2021, a global online survey was made available in English, French, Russian and Spanish, to provide all the stakeholders with the opportunity to share views and ideas for the preparation of the Global Action Plan. The survey generated 821 responses on the priority areas to be addressed in the Global Action Plan.

In parallel, UNESCO organized a series of consultative meetings for each socio-cultural region of Indigenous Peoples, in cooperation with members of the Global Task Force and other public, civil society, United Nations system entities. The consultations were carried out between March 2021 and June 2021.

Finally, the online public peer review consultations were launched in October 2021 providing an opportunity for all interested stakeholders to contribute to the finalization of the Global Action Plan.

The core and the main goal of the Global Action Plan is to make the world aware that people’s ability and freedom to use their chosen language is essential for human dignity, peaceful co-existence, reciprocal action, and for the general well-being and sustainable development of society at large. The right of free unimpeded choice of language use, expression, and opinion as well as self-determination and active engagement in public life without fear of discrimination is a prerequisite for inclusiveness and equality as key conditions for the creation of open and participatory societies.

The Global Action Plan is structured around four main parts, in addition to technical annexes:

I. The Introduction provides background information on the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism for societal development and draws attention to the critical situation of indigenous languages around the world. It also provides a rationale for undertaking immediate action to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages. Finally, it summarizes the preparation process of the Global Action Plan.

II. The second section outline the Theory of Change that defines the vision and impact statements for the International Decade and provides a methodology for all involved stakeholders to guide their participation, as well as their planning, implementation, evaluation and monitoring processes during the International Decade. This section also presents foreseen activities, outputs and outcomes and highlights linkages with other global development frameworks.

III. The third section presents the Implementation Framework including the multi-stakeholder partnership mechanism, timeframe, key milestones, as well as governance and coordination frameworks for the IDIL 2022-2032. It also introduces other strategic frameworks developed to support the implementation of the Global Action Plan, namely a Resource Mobilization Strategy and a Global Communication Strategy.

IV. Section four is focused on Monitoring and Evaluation and provides a set of measures to support continuous assessment of progress made.

V. The technical annexes include lists of used terms, key documents and frameworks, a roadmap towards the Global Action Plan and a summary table of the theory of change.

To 2032 and beyond, the Global Action Plan aims at contributing to the following impact:

Indigenous languages are preserved, revitalized, promoted and used across all socio-cultural, economic, environmental, and political domains and are drivers for building peace, justice, development and reconciliation in our societies

The Global Action Plan suggests ten interlinked outputs aimed to enlarge the functional scope of Indigenous languages usage across socio-cultural, economic, environmental, legal and political domains, applying an interdisciplinary approach in order to demonstrate inter-linkages, to point up the complexity of actions and resources required to ensure that Indigenous languages are preserved, revitalized and promoted around the world.

1. Inclusive, equitable, intercultural, quality education and lifelong learning environments and opportunities in Indigenous languages provided in formal, non-formal and informal educational settings.

2. Enhanced capacities among Indigenous Peoples for applying their languages and knowledge to the eradication of hunger and maintaining the integrity of Indigenous food systems.

3. Favourable conditions established for digital empowerment, freedom of expression, media development, access to information and language technology, alongside artistic creation in Indigenous languages.

4. Appropriate Indigenous language frameworks designed to offer better health provision, recognizing traditional systems of medicine, as well as promoting social cohesion and delivering humanitarian responses, especially during health crises, times of conflicts and natural disasters.

5. Access to justice and availability of public services guaranteed to Indigenous language speakers and signers.

6. Indigenous languages are sustained, as a vehicle of living heritage and biodiversity, whilst participation in -and access to – all forms of culture are enhanced for Indigenous Peoples.

7. Enabling environment is created for Indigenous languages, thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, ecosystems management, land restoration, improving the marine and coastal environment, reducing natural hazards, preventing pollution, and managing water resources.

8. Economic growth is strengthened by enhanced decent job opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and languages users.

9. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are achieved through the preservation, revitalization and promotion of Indigenous languages.

10. Public and private partnerships are firmly established to place on the global agenda a long-term commitment to the preservation, revitalization and promotion of Indigenous languages.

The linkages with 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT established in the document are also very important as current development frameworks and intervention measures tend to leave linguistic diversity and multilingualism lagging behind, despite the fact that language is at the core of what it means to be human: to speak and to listen, to sign and to express, to read and to write, to share knowledge and to understand, to form one’s own identity and culture, and what it means to live in harmony with nature and each other.