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Communiqué@ ITREALMS : Arising from a one-day conference, participants at the 2019 Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum on the Internet Governance...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Traditional knowledge at ‘core’ of indigenous heritage, and ‘must be protected’, says UN Forum

Traditional knowledge is at the core of indigenous identity, culture and heritage around the world, the chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues said at the annual event’s opening day on Monday, stressing that it “must be protected”.

Anne Nuorgam, who is a member of Finland’s Saami Parliament and head of the Saami Council’s Human Rights Unit, described the Forum as an opportunity to share innovations and practices, developed in indigenous communities “over centuries and millennia”.

Indigenous peoples make up less than six per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest on earth, according to the Forum. They live in some 90 countries, represent 5,000 different cultures and speak the overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.

Noting that 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, she said that “we have to celebrate our languages, but also take concrete action to preserve them and save those on the verge of extinction”.

Ms. Nuorgam pointed out that in many countries, indigenous children are not taught in their language. Citing Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) , she recalled that indigenous peoples have the right to provide education in their own languages.

“However, this needs financial and technical support from Member States and the UN System”, she stated.

As studies show that children learn best in their own mother tongue, Ms. Nuorgam encouraged everyone to “make sure our children” are connected to their indigenous communities and cultures, as they are “inextricably linked to their lands, territories and natural resources”.

“This enables us to protect our traditional knowledge”, asserted the chair.

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