5 key areas of intervention

During the period 2019–2020, the following five main intervention areas are envisaged in the Action Plan for the organization of the International Year and relevant initiatives will be launched. A list of initiatives is available below:

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.

High-level event “Making a Decade of Action for Indigenous Languages” and the Los Pinos Declaration

Date of event: from 27 to 28 February 2020, Los Pinos Cultural Complex, Mexico City, Mexico 

UNESCO and the Government of Mexico, in cooperation with a range of national, regional and international partners, organized a High-level event “Making a Decade of Action for Indigenous Languages”, that took place from 27 to 28 February 2020, on the margins of the International Congress on Languages at Risk from 25 to 26 February 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico. Detailed analysis of the Year’s outcomes provided a solid basis for the prioritization, identification of future strategies and working modalities, securing the commitment of key stakeholders and necessary assured funding. The High-level event also generated a Los Pinos Declaration (Outcome Document) that presents the milestones of the elaboration of the future Global Action Plan for the International Decade.

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Los Pinos Declaration in English, Spanish, French


High-level event for the closing of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

Date of event: 17 December 2019, UN Headquarters, New York, United States of America

On Tuesday, 17 December 2019, the President of the UN General Assembly convened a High-Level Event to close the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages in New York, in line with General Assembly resolution 73/156. The event was organized in collaboration with UNESCO and UNDESA.

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International Conference Language Technologies for All (LT4All)

Dates of event: 4-6 December 2019, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France

Within the framework of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, a three-days (4-6 December 2019) International Conference was organized in UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France. The event contributed towards the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all language users to access information and knowledge in languages that are best understood. It also aimed to encourage all relevant stakeholders to take concrete measures for the promotion of linguistic diversity, truly multilingual internet and language technologies, with special focus on indigenous languages.

Official website

Special event The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada

Date of event: 18 November 2019, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France

Within the framework of the International Year, the Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO and the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO hold a special event in the UNESCO Library (UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France) on Monday 18 November 2019 at 14.30 p.m.

The IYIL2019 aimed to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them, and to take further urgent steps at the national and international levels.

Delegates were invited to attend the donation ceremony, by which the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO provided a copy of the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, that was available for public consultation and use in the UNESCO Library.

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Launch of the IYIL2019/UNESCO Stamp

In September 2019, UNESCO, in cooperation with La Poste (France), has launched the official stamp dedicated to the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. The IYIL2019 stamp features the stand-alone logo of the International Year and aims to contribute to its promotion. It can be purchased in all post offices in France as well as online.

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9 August 2019 – International Day of Indigenous Peoples

On this special day dedicated to indigenous peoples, their human rights, languages, ancient histories, and rich cultures, several activities are taking place worldwide. UNESCO, as lead agency for the implementation of the international year, is launching a global social media campaign for the promotion of the day, including circulation of the Director General’s Message and launch of a dedicated video. Several Field Offices have organized relevant initiatives for the promotion, revitalization and support of indigenous languages, including Bangkok, Brasilia, Mexico City, Quito. A special commemorative event will take place at the United Nations HQ. Discover the global calendar of events on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples through the interactive map.

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Side Event on IYIL2019 – UNPFII 2019

Date of event: 23 April 2019, United Nations Headquarters, New York, United States of America

Some progress is being made on raising awareness on a critical loss of indigenous languages around the world, since the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages (Resolution A/RES/71/178) in 2016. The Action Plan for the organization of the International Year in 2018 called for a coherent approach and for collaborative action by all stakeholders to achieve maximal positive impact and social change. UNESCO, serving as the lead organization for the International Year, in cooperation with members of the Steering Committee for the organization of the International Year, organized a side event to review achievements of the first months of the year (quadrimester) and sharpen our discussions on immediate actions required and to be taken by all stakeholders for the implementation of the International Year. The side event was attended by the representatives of Member States, members of the UN Permanent Forum, indigenous peoples, research and civil society organizations, UN-system entities and other partners. Discussion led to new insights for participants on partnership opportunities, upcoming events and initiatives.

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High Level Dialogue ‘ICT 4 ALL: Indigenous Languages Matter for Peace, Innovation and Development’, WSIS Forum 2019

Date of event: 10 April 2019, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland

The High Level Dialogue provided space for open consultations and encourage discourse on a shift of paradigm on the important role that indigenous languages could play towards sustainable development if ICTs are made accessible, inclusive and affordable for all, including indigenous language users. Indigenous languages are imbued with invaluable potential and universal knowledge that can be unlocked in order to contribute to development and innovation in domains such as education, science and research, culture, policy, industry and environment.

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United Nations Postal Administration issues World Languages’ stamps to commemorate the International Mother Language Day

21 February 2019

In observance of the International Mother Language Day, the United Nations Postal Administration, (UNPA) issued three mini-sheets of six stamps to honour the world’s languages. The stamps sheets feature greetings in 41 languages; they were designed by Sergio Baradat (United Nations).

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Hadynyah / iStock / Getty Images PlusInternational Mother Language Day

Date of event: 21 February 2019

The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed throughout the world since 2000. UNESCO believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies.

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Copyright: UNUN General Assembly Launch Event of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

Date of event: 1st February 2019, United Nations, New-York, USA

The President of the United Nations General Assembly convened a High-Level meeting of the General Assembly to launch the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. The meeting took place on 1 February 2019, in the General Assembly Hall.

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Official Global Launch Event of IYIL2019

Date of event: 28 January 2019, UNESCO House, Paris, France

This official launch event is co-organized by UNESCO, UNDESA, and the members of Steering Committee for the organization of the International Year, as well as with the participation of other relevant stakeholders. Under the theme “Indigenous languages matter for sustainable development, peace building and reconciliation”, the event gathered high-level governmental officials, indigenous peoples, civil society, academia, media, information and memory organizations, United Nations agencies, public language harmonization and documentation institutions and private sector bodies.

Concept Note and Agenda – Photo Gallery – Read more

2. Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices

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.

First UNESCO Bulletin on Indigenous Peoples and the COVID-19 pandemic

Date of event: 9 August 2020, on the occasion of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples 

UNESCO’s first bulletin on indigenous peoples has a particular focus on their resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This bulletin showcases the important work carried out in recent months to prioritize indigenous issues – and the UNESCO Intersectoral Working Group on Indigenous Peoples Issues has played an essential role this year in supporting cultural diversity and human rights, in line with the longstanding missions of UNESCO.

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COVID-19 Pandemic: Language Matters

The Secretariat of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) has created the dedicated web page “COVID-19 Pandemic: Language Matters”. It includes a collection of resources in and about indigenous languages related to COVID-19 prevention (public health messages and recommendations), as well as statements and policy-guidelines issued by other UN agencies and other organizations, and information about relevant initiatives that aim to tackle the negative impact of the pandemic on indigenous communities worldwide.

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Summary Report of the IYIL2019

summary report of activities carried out during the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) has been released by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), providing an overview of  key activities carried out by international, regional, national and local institutions in 78 countries., coordinated by UNESCO, lead agency for the implementation of the International Year.

Read more – Available in 6 UNESCO languages

Film Fest 2019

Date of event: 27 September 2019, Bangkok, Thailand

An Amazonian shaman searches for a sacred plant with two scientists; a spiritual master who converses with nature appears and reappears like a ghost in different regions of the Cordilleras Mountains; and a Nahuatl family struggles as they prepare to honour the death of a family member. These are just some of the main premises of several films that were shown at the International Year of Indigenous Languages Film Fest 2019, which was held at the Cinema Oasis movie theatre in Bangkok, Thailand on 27 September 2019.

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Online Indigenous Film Festival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Date of event: 3-14 June 2019, UNESCO House, Paris, France

The countries from Latin America and the Caribbean together with UNESCO are launching an Online Indigenous Film Festival (OIFF) within the context of the International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019 (IYIL2019) and of the upcoming Latin American and the Caribbean Week, that will take place on 3 – 7 June 2019 at UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France).  “68 Voices”, a creative animated indigenous stories, will be released on the dedicated website of IYIL2019 from 3 June to 14 June 2019.

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Indigenous Community Media

Community media provide a platform for discussion and can give a voice to marginalized populations, including many indigenous groups. They focus on local issues and their programming addresses the topics most relevant to their listeners, which is usually broadcast in traditional dialects to ensure that facts are effectively passed on and the audience can actively participate. As such, this type of media is well-suited to the transfer of cultural knowledge and giving communities the ability to exchange information in their own language.

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The UNESCO Courier on Indigenous Languages and Knowledge (IYIL 2019)

Date of publication: January 2019

Most indigenous languages are in danger, even though they are the main conveyors of knowledge that provide original solutions to contemporary challenges. “The major influence on the sorry state of their languages is the fact that indigenous peoples are threatened themselves,” says Minnie Degawan (Igorot, Philippines) in her introductory article. “In the Philippines, the government has launched the use of mother tongues in schools, but no resources are available in terms of teachers and learning materials to allow for indigenous children to be taught in their mother tongues,” she explains.

The designation of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019 (link is external)) gives us the opportunity to review issues related to indigenous languages and knowledge in other latitudes as well: among Fijians in the Pacific, the Dong in China, the Sámi in Swedish Lapland, the Bahima in Uganda, the Maori in New Zealand and the Mixtec in Mexico.

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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.

The Los Pinos Declaration [Chapoltepek]

The Los Pinos Declaration [Chapoltepek] is the outcome of the High-level closing event which was organized by UNESCO and the Government of Mexico, in cooperation with regional, national and international partners, on 27 and 28 February 2020 at the former presidential palace of Los Pinos in Mexico City, Mexico.

The Outcome Document presents the key outcomes and lessons learnt from the IYIL2019 and the milestones jointly identified for the elaboration of the future Global Action Plan for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 2019.

Read more – Available in French, Spanish and English 

Strategic Outcome Document of the IYIL2019

The Strategic Outcome Document of the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) intends to inform Member States of the progress achieved in follow up to the UNGA resolution and in the implementation of the Action Plan for organizing the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. The document also summarizes the outcomes of the consultative process launched by UNESCO and the Steering Committee for the organization of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and it also informs on UNESCO’s role and specific contribution with regard to the organization of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Read more – Available in 6 UNESCO Languages

Yuelu Proclamation on the Protection and Promotion of Linguistic Diversity of the World

The purpose of the international conference wass to review the status and situation of language diversity in the Asia-Pacific and other regions, as well as to explore new avenues for language resource protection, support and promotion worldwide. Undeniably, languages are a core component of human rights, and preventing their endangerment contributes to safeguarding people’s right to education, their capacity to access information and knowledge, and to participate to society. This conference aimed at contributing to the long-term objective of building a global community with shared future, and of developing pluralistic, equitable, open and inclusive societies. An outcome summary document was elaborated to explain the key issues that were identified during the conference, and to provide policy recommendations in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Action plan for organizing the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

UNESCO worked with governments, indigenous peoples’ organizations, researchers and other stakeholders to elaborate an action plan which sets out the path to achieving the objectives of the International Year. This multi-stakeholder partnership is made up of a Steering Committee to oversee implementation, ad hoc groups to provide relevant advice, and contributing partners. The action plan lays out the key measurable objectives, principles and actions to be taken during the year and afterwards.

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4. Empower 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 of language tools and materials, from traditional methods to cutting-edge information and communications technology solutions.

Project-Based Training and Mentoring Program on IP for Women Entrepreneurs from Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

WIPO is launching a new training and mentoring program aimed at strengthening the capacity of women entrepreneurs from indigenous peoples and local communities to make strategic and effective use of intellectual property (IP) rights, in support of projects based on traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).

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Hackathon #ConectaCulturas

Date of event: 26-28 July 2019, Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para América Latina (CIESPAL), Quito, Ecuador

The Virtual Documentation Centre of the Peoples and Nationalities of Ecuador, which serves as a meeting point for existing research material from various sources and institutions, as a link to virtual libraries on related subjects and to publish research that has not been digitized and new productions narrated from the voices of the representatives of indigenous cultures themselves.

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Hackathon on #Indigenous Languages

Date of event: 15-17 March 2019, Lifelong Learning Institute, Singapore

Dawn Bouttasing grew up in Phonsavanh, Laos, with a family that at home mainly spoke Khmu, one of the many indigenous languages of Laos. Her father set a rule that she and her siblings had to always speak Khmu with their parents, no matter where they were, and Dawn was taught to be proud of her Khmu heritage and traditions.

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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 in cultural and linguistic heritage of indigenous peoples both for their own benefit and for wider society on a national, regional and global scale.

New UNESCO World Atlas of Languages

In 2020, UNESCO is planning to launch an online platform for the World Atlas of Languages, a repository for linguistic diversity and multilingualism. A global data collection “Survey of World Languages” was initiated by UNESCO in close cooperation with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and leading experts.

For the launch of new platform, the methodology has been revised and a global data collection process has been launched. The data – including more than 1000 languages – is being analyzed and will be integrated into a new technical platform which will provide a number of new features for the collaborative work, knowledge and content sharing, providing a space for the online community.

Arabic Atlas of Languages

UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector launched the development of the Arabic Atlas of Languages, which will be functioning as an integral part of a broader global effort -UNESCO World Atlas of Languages -to encourage collaboration among different stakeholders for promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity in Arab speaking countries and within the community of Arabic language experts and users. It will also serve as a tool to monitor a progress made in Arabic speaking countries, build institutional capacities, raise awareness among larger communities of language speakers and strengthen international cooperation.

UNESCO World Report of Languages

In 2020, UNESCO, aims to publish a global report on the status of languages, on the basis of the Global Survey on Languages carried out by UNESCO and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, in cooperation with UNESCO Member States. The Report will include new information and detailed data for natural human languages, including official and unofficial, spoken as well as sign languages, used around the world. By identifying good practices used by different stakeholders, UNESCO aims to provide evidence-based data for informed decision making and urge to take urgent measures to preserve, support and promote linguistic diversity and multilingualism.

Call for Research Papers within the context of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

Submissions are closed.

UNESCO has launched a Global Call for Research Papers within the context of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. As the deadline for submissions has been extended to 15 March 2019, researchers and practitioners from all over the world specializing in different fields and subject areas are strongly encouraged to submit in order to contribute to the preservation, revitalization and promotion of indigenous languages at the national, regional and international level.

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