Of 7,000 indigenous languages spoken today, four in 10 were in danger of disappearing, UN experts said, in a call for a decade of action to reverse the "historic destruction" of age-old dialects.
In an appeal to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples on Friday, the UN-appointed experts said on Wednesday that "nation-building" had been largely responsible for "ongoing discrimination" against native speakers, reports Xinhua news agency.
"Over time, such policies can undermine and effectively destroy a culture and even a people," the experts warned, insisting that indigenous languages allowed freedom of expression and conscience that are critical to people's dignity, culture and political representation.
The experts, who include panels that report to the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), along with a UN-appointed investigator known as a Special Rapporteur, commended states that support a Decade of Indigenous Languages.
"Ten years would provide the time and resources necessary to reverse the historic destruction of indigenous languages and reclaim these languages for the future of indigenous peoples and the world community, alike," they added.