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The Eastern Partnership Minorities Network kicks off new level of cooperation in the region

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The Eastern Partnership Minorities Network kicks off new level of cooperation in the region

The Eastern Partnership Minorities Network (EaPMN) has created an influential voice for minorities and indigenous peoples, member organizations say today at a conference in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Network, founded in 2013 and so far bringing together over 80 minority organizations and civil society leaders from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, has proved to be a unique advocacy platform for minorities and indigenous peoples of the region at a time when their countries are both strengthening ties with the European Union, but also dealing with critical challenges related to human rights and development.

The Best Practice Seminar on Minority Rights, Conflict and Reconciliation organised by the EaPMN takes place a few days before a prominent civil society gathering, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum organized in Batumi, Georgia, where the EaPMN will be represented for the second consecutive year.

’Enabling the voices of minorities and indigenous peoples to be heard is essential to ensure that dialogue replaces conflict in the region and that minorities benefit from the association process with the EU. The Eastern Partnership Minorities Network is creating an important space for both,’ says Neil Clarke, Director of Minority Rights Group Europe.

This pattern of ongoing and unresolved conflicts has had great impact on national, ethnic and religious minorities and indigenous communities within these territories, leaving them highly vulnerable to humans rights violations. In many cases this pattern of conflicts is sparked and maintained by geo-strategic interests, which make it very difficult for small and unrepresented communities to play a necessary part in any reconciliation and peace processes. Conflict is only one of several critical issues which have led to many minorities and indigenous peoples in the region not being guaranteed basic rights and citizenship and has resulted insystematic cases of discrimination.

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) programme of the EU was launched in 2009, and enables the six partnership countries to achieve association status through political reform processes and economic cooperation including free trade and visa liberalization. Respect for human rights (including those of minorities and indigenous peoples) and inclusion of all communities, are essential conditions of the EaP agreements. These agreements provide a vital basis for minorities to demand implementation of legislation and reforms on equality, anti-discrimination and other fundamental rights.

’The Eastern Partnership Minorities Network allows to represent the common interest of minority communities throughout the association process,’ says Stepan Grigoryan from Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation in Armenia. ’In the long run, our work will hopefully result in more minority-informed policy development in our countries.’

The EaPMN has supported minority communities in campaigns and advocacy through trainings, meetings and grants according to the their new website launched at the Exchange Meeting in Tbilisi. In October 2014, for example, members of the EaPMN from Ukraine and Georgia made interventions in the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting on the increasing xenophobia and intolerance towards minorities in Georgia, discrimination of Roma communities in Georgia and Ukraine, as well as the ongoing intimidation of indigenous and minority activists in Crimea.

The best practice exchange visits are just one example of many activities that facilitate and enhance mutual learning among minority leaders in the region. Minority leaders are reaching across borders between countries once hostile towards each other and where travel has been limited, for example between Azerbaijan and Armenia. These activities reflect the mandate of the EaPMN to strengthen the capacity of minority civil society organizations.

As a result of the massive information campaign and networking of the past year, over 80 local organizations and dozens of EU decision-makers raised awareness of the importance of minority participation in the Eastern Partnership programme.

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Bernadett Sebály – MRG Press Office (Hungary)
M: +3670 217 2601
T: +36 1 327 7032
E:  bernadett.sebaly@mrgmail.org

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