Gay McDougall appointed as UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues
Gay McDougall, Executive Director of Global Rights, has today been appointed as the first United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues. She brings extensive and varied experience in the field of human rights to the newly created position, which has been described as a ‘watchdog’ on minority rights. Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which campaigned for the new UN minorities mandate, welcomed the appointment of Ms McDougall and has offered its full support and assistance in fulfilling her responsibilities.
An American human rights lawyer, Gay McDougall served as an independent expert on the UN treaty body that oversees the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and on the U.N. Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. As Special Rapporteur on the issue of systematic rape and sexual slavery practices in armed conflict, she presented a groundbreaking study calling for international legal standards for the prosecution of such acts. She was one of five international members of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission, which successfully organized and administered that country’s first non-racial elections.
Director of Minority Rights Group International, Mark Lattimer, stated: ‘Given the appalling number of human rights violations committed against minorities, the appointment of a UN minorities watchdog was long overdue. The challenge now is to make this new role a truly effective mechanism for the protection of minorities worldwide.’
The mandate of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues was approved by consensus of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at its 61st session in Geneva in April 2005. The post holder will engage with governments and minorities worldwide to promote and protect minority rights and raise awareness of minority rights violations. MRG described the role as essential to meeting the challenge of widespread and ongoing minority rights violations and promoting neglected minority rights issues within the UN system.
Essential to its effectiveness will be the ability to enter into consultations with Governments and minorities in a constructive, problem-solving manner, in order to resolve issues of contention. The new post is created amid a wide-scale review and reform of the UN system with the goal of delivering results in the fields of human rights, development and security.