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Session of UN forum on indigenous issues enters second week

Session of UN forum on indigenous issues enters second week

Indigenous cultures must be preserved in today's globalized world and transmitted to future generations, an official from the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) today told the UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

"The preservation of cultural diversity is not only a business of conserving monuments and buildings of the past," Alfatih Hamad told the Forum, which today began the second week of meetings in New York. "It also requires preserving and promoting intangible cultural heritage." He added that the revitalization of indigenous languages, knowledge and practices must be at the centre of efforts to preserve cultural diversity.

UNESCO attached great importance to devising practical methods for ensuring that the rich oral traditions of indigenous peoples - often threatened with imminent disappearance - were passed on to future generations, he said. As part of that effort, the agency was working to promote multilingual education, which would allow children to become "true citizens not only of their society but also of the entire world" while staying connected to their cultural community.

Looking to the broader value of such efforts, Mr. Hamad said UNESCO's work was based on the concept of pluralism. "We are convinced that intercultural dialogue and the promotion of intercultural education is, in the long run, the best guarantee of peace and development," he said.

The Forum, established in July 2000, breaks new ground by providing indigenous people with a venue for representing their interests directly to a major UN body. In addition to making recommendations to the Economic and Social Council on development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights, the Forum will also work to raise awareness, promote the integration of activities relating to indigenous issues within the UN system, and disseminate information on indigenous issues.