New York, USA. The 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) took place at the UN headquarters, New York from 22 April – 3 May 2019. This annual event has drawn nearly 2,000 indigenous leaders, activists and government representatives from every corner of the world to the United Nations. The theme of the Forum was, “Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission and protection.”
Fr. Paulus Marandi CMF from the Province of USA – Canada and Fr. Rohan Dominic CMF represented the Claretian NGO, Fondazione Proclade Internazionale – Onlus in the Permanent Forum, this year. Proclade, as member of the NGO Committee on the Rights of Indigenous People, NGO Mining Working Group and Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR) co-sponsored some of the side and parallel events during the Forum.
The Permanent Forum raises the awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues within the UN system and prepares and disseminates information on indigenous issues to all.
This year’s forum had discussions and deliberations on different aspects of Traditional Knowledge of the indigenous people.
Traditional knowledge is collectively owned, whether taking the form of stories, songs, beliefs, customary laws and artwork or scientific, agricultural, technical and ecological knowledge, as do the skills to implement those technologies and knowledge. Traditional knowledge not only provide indigenous peoples with tremendous possibilities for daily life and sustainable and collective development, it also reflects their holistic worldviews, which are considered a significant source of cultural and biological diversity.
Traditional knowledge has often been undermined and destroyed by colonial and post-colonial States. Now, in many places, there is growing recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain, control, protect and develop their own traditional knowledge. Indigenous peoples face multiple threats and challenges in protecting their cultures and traditional knowledge. And, it is the duty of States to ensure that those rights are respected and protected.
Traditional knowledge is at the core of indigenous identity, culture, languages, heritage and livelihoods. Languages are fundamental for the continuation and transmission of indigenous peoples’ culture and knowledge systems. They are not only a tool for communication but also an expression of identity and a system of values and beliefs. But most indigenous languages are in danger of extinction in the coming decades.
The United Nations has declared 2019 as a Year of Indigenous Languages. Indigenous peoples make up less than six per cent of the world’s population. They live in 90 countries, represent 5,000 different cultures and speak the overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.