Social Issues

Expert: Latin America leading efforts to preserve indigenous languages

By Gina Baldivieso

La Paz, Dec 21 (EFE).- Latin America is in the vanguard of the effort to safeguard indigenous languages, with several regional countries already having put in place 10-year plans for that purpose, according to an expert with the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC),

Gabriel Muyuy, the technical secretary of that intergovernmental body based in this Bolivian city, offered his assessment in an interview with Efe coinciding with last week’s official launch in Paris of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, which the United Nations General Assembly has declared for the 2022-2032 period.

The Colombian said now that a global action plan has been launched a “big challenge” lies ahead in putting it into practice worldwide through the mechanisms of the United Nations System and regionally through bodies like FILAC.

Each country also should have its own national plan, Muyuy added.

“Latin America is the most advanced region worldwide because we now have several 10-year plans in each country, as is the case in Bolivia (where) it even (has) legal backing,” he said, noting that Colombia is implementing its own plan and Peru, Mexico and Paraguay are making strides as well.

He said FILAC has offered its institutionality and experience, as well as platforms such as the Ibero-American Institute of Indigenous Languages (IIALI), to support the linguistic preservation work to be carried out over the next decade.

“The IIALI is the only institution, the only concrete institutional mechanism, that exists now at the global level. There’s no other institution that’s been established to drive the process of cultural and linguistic revitalization this decade,” Muyuy said.

FILAC’s technical secretary said Latin America’s leadership role in this effort can be traced back to 2006, when participants in the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government first proposed the idea of an institutional mechanism to help ensure the survival of the region’s remaining indigenous languages.

Muyuy said, by contrast, that language-preservation efforts in other regions are just now beginning, or were only launched following the UN General Assembly’s declaration.

He recalled that Latin America and the Caribbean is home to some 900 indigenous peoples, just 557 of whom still speak their own language. The rest of those native tongues have died out due to factors such as the preferential treatment given to other languages through the educational system.

And a study carried out by FILAC between 2019 and 2020 found that the situation is “very worrying” because more than 100 of those surviving indigenous languages are at very high risk of going extinct.

Muyuy said the global action plan for 2022-2032 has four components, one of which is the “dissemination, pedagogical socialization and promotion, defense and revitalization of languages within the framework of the cultural diversity” of the more than 5,000 indigenous peoples worldwide.

The second component is research efforts aimed at determining the process for revitalizing these languages through various activities over the next nine years, he said.

The final two components are “inter-institutional coordination to ensure a comprehensive vision” for the various actions of the 10-year plan and the mobilization of resources to finance it.

“All of this must be under the leadership and effective participation of the legal subjects, which in this case are the indigenous peoples,” Muyuy added. EFE


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