According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the right to free expression and to access information in one’s native language is one of the fundamental conditions for full empowerment of indigenous peoples. Preserving the vitality of indigenous languages helps to preserve and protect traditional knowledge, which often exists mainly in oral form, and at the same safeguards the culture and identity of indigenous communities.
One of the ways communities are working to exercise these rights is through the use of digital media and internet-based tools. By taking advantage of increasing connectivity and more affordable devices, communities are extending both the reach of content they produce in their native their languages and their access to information and knowledge produced by others, as well as their ability to communicate with their peers in other communities.
At the forefront of this trend are those language digital activists who take a “do-it-yourself” approach to creating digital content, social media campaigns, online educational materials, and communication platforms. The overarching spirit of these activists is one of sharing—of skills, experiences, and knowledge.
The Los Pinos Declaration [Chapoltepek] prepared at UNESCO’s high-level closing event of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages recognized the potential of these activists, recommending the:
Promotion of networks of digital activists and champions for the teaching and learning of indigenous languages, as well as the exchange of best practices related to the use of technology.
These language communities, however, still face a number of key obstacles to optimal use of the internet and digital media to promote their languages online. These include barriers to access, as well as technical, technological, linguistic, socio-cultural, and even legal or political challenges.
The good news is that many of these challenges are being addressed by digital activists around the world, who are developing effective strategies and solutions which could be adopted and adapted to suit other communities’ unique contexts and realities.
Global Voices’ Rising Voices (RV) initiative is partnering with UNESCO to produce a toolkit for digital activists that builds upon the work of some of the activists, showing users how internet and social media tools could used for the promotion and revitalization of indigenous languages, or other under-resourced or minority languages. Both RV and UNESCO are strongly committed to the protection, support and promotion of indigenous languages online, as demonstrated by the support both organizations continue to assist with critical capacity-building work needed to equip indigenous peoples with the tools, resources, and skills for implementation of their own digital campaigns and projects.
The toolkit will not be a step-by-step guide; rather, it will provide a roadmap for digital activism co-designed in close collaboration with existing and new networks of digital activists and other partners, as preparations continue for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032.
Please see the Process section for more information about how we are planning on engaging a wide range of stakeholders.