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Equality in dignity’ requires recognition of minorities states MRG briefing

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While recognition is routinely given to the identities of majority groups in states, this is often not the case for a multiplicity of ethnic or national, religious or linguistic minority groups. Recognition is essential to secure the rights of minority groups and lack of recognition may potentially contribute to instability and conflict. These are among the findings of a new briefing paper by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which stresses that legal recognition of minorities by states leads to subsequent respect of minority rights, without which minorities and migrant groups are unable to enjoy the fundamental right of ‘equality in dignity’.

According to report author Panayote Elias Dimitras, ‘Recognition based on self-identification is an important step in the process of securing minority rights and safeguarding the position of members of minorities as equal members of society’. Highlighting the link between minority status and poverty, he states that non-recognition hinders the enjoyment of rights including crucial economic, social and cultural rights, resulting in marginalization of minorities in many spheres of society. International human rights documents and treaty monitoring bodies, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), strongly reinforce both the principle of self-identification of minorities and the explicit requirement of their recognition and protection by states.

Respect for and protection of minorities have also been included in the Copenhagen criteria for EU enlargement, the latest phase of which took place on 1 May, and in the latest draft of the European Constitution. However, the Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) has helped establish the many ways in which states are not adhering to their obligations regarding recognition, through a comprehensive review of state practice regarding minority rights. Some states that have not ratified the FCNM include France, which refuses to recognize any minority (including Basques, Bretons, Corsicans and Roma), and Turkey which considers that no Muslims can have an ethnic identity other than Turkish, thus not legally recognizing Muslim Kurds or Roma.

MRG’s briefing paper concludes with a series of recommendations aimed at inter-governmental organizations, states and international donors. States are urged to recognize the existence of all minorities that seek recognition, even implicitly, including indigenous and migrant groups and abolish criteria that restrict this right. States are encouraged to implement the recommendations on recognition by expert bodies of inter-governmental organizations and engage in effective dialogue with NGOs and other civil society organizations representing minorities themselves. Inter-governmental organizations are urged to undertake reviews of the implementation of minority rights by member states with attention inter alia to the fundamental aspect of the recognition of minorities. Those countries considered to be in serious violation of minority rights should become subject to special monitoring mechanisms.

Notes for editors

Download MRG’s briefing ‘Recognition of Minorities in Europe: Protecting Rights and Dignity‘.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on press@minorityrights.org.

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