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Statement by H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia at the High Level event of the General Assembly on the Launch of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, New York, 1 February 2019

01.02.2019

Madam President,

Let me first thank you for convening the high-level event for launching the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Estonia firmly supports the aims of the International Year - to raise global awareness of indigenous languages and to mobilize different stakeholders and resources for coordinated action in this field around the world.

According to UNESCO, there are 7000 languages in the world, from these 2700 face a risk of extinction. With the loss of a language however, a whole culture may confront critical risks.

Preserving and developing indigenous languages is highly relevant for sustainable development, reconciliation and good governance. International Year of Indigenous Languages should enhance international cooperation and strengthen intercultural dialogue.

Protecting languages also directly relates to protecting the human rights of indigenous peoples. Protection of the rights of indigenous peoples is a vital part of Estonian foreign policy and human rights activities in the international organisations. We firmly believe that indigenous peoples add to the diversity of the world and enrich our cultures.

We are worried that many small indigenous peoples face challenges concerning preseving their culture, including their language. Estonia, belonging to the small family of the Finno-Ugric peoples, puts much emphasis on the protection of the small indigenous cultures and languages. We are convinced that taking care of your language and culture, and most importantly developing them, is an obligation of each nation to the world.

As a member of the Steering Committee for organising the year of the indigenous languages, Estonia is actively engaged in the coordination of its activities.

The International Year of Indigenous Languages will also be celebrated in Estonia, whereby we put emphasis on the small local dialects of Estonia.

As to the other initiatives concerning indigenous peoples, we would like to stress the need for enhanced participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives in relevant UN fora. We consider it of utmost importance that indigenous peoples’ representatives and organisations have the possibility and space to exercise their right to participate in meetings of all relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them.

Madam President,

We would like to commend UNESCO for taking on the task of coordination of the year of the indigenous languages and we are glad that the opening ceremony in Paris was a success. However, we are worried about the limited resources allocated for the projects of the international year, which might challenge the full implementation of the planned activities.  I am glad to say that Estonia has contributed financially (with 30 000 euros) to support the activities of the international year of the indigenous languages. We hope that this year will yield tangible results and will contribute to concrete activities also beyond 2019 ensuring preservation and development of the indigenous languages.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that it is of paramount importance that the international community does everything possible to support indigenous peoples, honour their past and guarantee their future. It is high time that we step up efforts towards fulfilling the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples both at the national and international levels and cooperate for preserving the unique linguistic and cultural diversity. 

Thank you!

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