Human Rights Council, 18th session
12-30 September 2011 (Geneva, Switzerland)

The Human Rights Council closed its 18th session by adopting 33 texts on a wide range of issues, including on human rights and indigenous peoples. In the second week of its session, the Council held a half-day panel on the role of languages and culture in the protection of well-being and identity of indigenous peoples. Panel participants argued that both language and culture are interdependent pillars on which the identity of a people is maintained. They provide cohesion within and outside communities. Opening the discussion, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, noted that the loss of indigenous languages was a tragedy on a global scale. “As indigenous languages die, so too do integral parts of indigenous peoples’ cultures, a process that often involves violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights to culture, language and even self-determination,” Kang said.

The Council welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and requested the Expert Mechanism to prepare a study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of indigenous peoples, in addition to a questionnaire survey to seek the views of States on best practices to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Council decided to hold, on an annual basis a half-day panel on the rights of indigenous peoples and to hold, at its 21st session, a half-day panel on access to justice by indigenous peoples. Visit the meeting website … Read the round-up release by OHCHR … Read the OHCHR release on the panel on indigenous languages …