Indigenous experts and activists set a hefty agenda for this year, including the preservation of indigenous languages, reparations for past abuses and violence against native women, to be tackled during the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Meeting in Managua, Nicaragua Feb. 21-23, 11 indigenous leaders from around the world, including representatives from Guatemala, Mexico, Guyana and Nicaragua, set topics for the body’s next meeting, scheduled for May 7-18 in New York.
“In the majority of countries, there is an enormous gap between the rights that are recognized and their implementation in practice,” said Myrna Cunningham, the chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and a Miskito from Nicaragua.
Cunningham warned that action must be taken to preserve indigenous languages, which are on the road to extinction. Feb. 21 marked International Mother Language Day.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, director-general, Irina Bokova, said: “The language of our thoughts and our emotions is our most valuable asset. Multilingualism is our ally in ensuring quality education for all, in promoting inclusion and in combating discrimination.”
Cunningham echoed this and said the New York forum will be used to draw up proposals for governments to ensure culturally-sensitive policies, as well as others that address and protect indigenous peoples’ intellectual property.
Other issues to be addressed include food security and the advancement of large-scale agribusiness on indigenous lands, she said.