Bolivian President Evo Morales addressed the United Nations General Assembly on February 1 for the opening ceremony of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, where he warned about the accelerated destruction such languages are suffering.
“The loss of a language means the loss of a worldview, a decline and belittling of human intelligence,” Morales said.
The Bolivian president opened his speech in Aymara, his mother language, and stressed that Indigenous languages are a fundamental part of identity.
The initiative was promoted by several countries, including Bolivia, and was approved by the UN General Assembly in 2016.
UNESCO is leading efforts to raise awareness of the value of Indigenous languages. According to the international organisation, there are about 370 million people in more than 70 countries speaking Indigenous languages.
Of the total 6700 languages registered worldwide, about 40% are in imminent danger of disappearing, especially indigenous ones.
Morales highlighted that languages are not only a means for communication, but part of a peoples’ identity and culture.
Bolivia is the Latin American country with the largest proportion of Indigenous population, 62.2%.
After first taking office in 2006, Morales promoted plans to benefit the Indigenous population.
Bolivia’s new Political Constitution of the Plurinational State recognises and protects the country’s 36 nationalities, each with its own language.
UNESCO deputy culture general director Ernesto Ottone says about 90% of Indigenous languages could disappear by the end of the century if necessary measures are not taken.
UN General Assembly president and Ecuadorian diplomat Maria Fernanda Espinosa remarked that every Indigenous language is vulnerable and when they disappear they take “pages of history, wisdom and worldview of the peoples” with them.