The proposal for an IDIL, which was originally suggested for 2020-30, has been working its way through the UN system for several months. It was discussed on this blog in a posting this past August, and again mentioned in another post last month.
The two-year lead will leave time to prepare and organize for the decade.
As we look beyond the current International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019), it is interesting to note a proposal for continuing that effort as an International Decade, 2020-2030 (IDIL). In this post, I’ll share at what information I have found about the latter, and relate it to a similar, but now almost forgotten, proposal for a Decade following the International Year of Languages (IYL2008).
We strongly support the States that have encouraged the United Nations to Declare 2020-2030 the Decade of Indigenous Languages. This initial year is important to raise awareness among states and convene stakeholders, including universities, civil society, private sector, and other actors, in the movement for indigenous language revitalization. Yet it will take more time to reverse the dire situation of indigenous peoples’ language loss. Over the course of a decade, however, it would be possible to truly transform the situation of indigenous peoples’ languages, such that these languages could fully recover and flourish in the lives of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples must play a leading role and be fully consulted while these initiatives are being discussed.
I do not currently have information on which countries actively back the IDIL proposal.
UN International Decades, like the Years, are typically established by resolution of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). As I understand the process, a resolution would need to be proposed by member states, then go through a normal process of debate and revision before a vote.
It may be possible for UNESCO, the agency facilitating IYIL2019, to declare a Decade and then seek UNGA adoption. In any event, the process for something so significant is not quick (note the attempts by India, beginning with appeal to FAO in 2017, to establish a Year of Millets – which may finally happen in 2023).
It was probably inevitable that someone in official circles would at least float a proposal along these lines, and indeed that was what happened in 2009. Details were hard to come by, but apparently Hungary made a proposal at UNESCO that was supported by Austria. And Venezuela, Chile, and Ethiopia also backed the idea, which evidently was given the title “International Decade of Languages and Multilingualism.”
This proposal never seemed to gather the kind of constituency and support that IDIL has today. So it will be interesting to see how the latter fares.
Indigenous & endangered languages?
IDIL would address vitally important issues just as IYIL2019 does, and it is a proposal with merit. Given the frequent mention of endangered languages in the context of discussing indigenous languages – since many of the latter are among the former – I’m personally wondering if the proposal wouldn’t be strengthened by joining the two categories.
Could an International Decade of Indigenous and Endangered Languages gain wider support and ultimately achieve more, while not diluting attention to languages of indigenous peoples?
The theme of the year, “Indigenous languages matter for sustainable development, peace building and reconciliation,” echoes the “Languages matter” theme of the 2008 International Year of Languages. It also seems to highlight connections with the Sustainable Development Goals and even the concurrent International Year of Moderation (which will be the subject of a separate post).
IYIL2019 was declared in the 2016 UNGA resolution on the Rights of indigenous peoples., based on a resolution of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
A general statement of the purpose of the Year from the official webpage sets the theme:
Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory. But despite their immense value, languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate.
With this in mind, the United Nations declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) in order to raise awareness of them, not only to benefit the people who speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our world’s rich cultural diversity.
The IYIL2019 has five (5) “overarching” objectives (taken from the CFP, below; the website has a slightly different set of 5 action areas):
Informing about the importance of indigenous languages for social development
Creating greater awareness about the critical status of indigenous languages around the world
Stimulating intercultural debate around indigenous languages
Imparting new knowledge on the importance of indigenous languages
Shaping attitudes of relevant stakeholders about indigenous languages.
CFP within the context of IYIL2019
As part of the Year, there is a call for research papers (deadline 1 March 2019) addressing one or more of seven key areas of intervention:
Humanitarian affairs, peace-building and national development plans
Indigenous education and life-long learning
Indigenous knowledge in science and health
Social inclusion and urbanization, ethics and civic engagement
Cultural heritage and diplomacy
Technology, digital activism, and artificial intelligence
… on agriculture, NRM, education, ICT, language, development & policy