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Who we are

Minority Rights Group is the leading human rights organization working with ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and indigenous peoples worldwide.

Millions of people miss out on basic rights because they are different. We support minorities and indigenous peoples in the defence of their rights – to the lands they live on, to the languages they speak, to the beliefs they practise, to the cultures they enjoy, to equal opportunities in education and employment, and to full participation in public life.

We work with ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and indigenous peoples to secure their rights and promote understanding between communities. We are guided by the needs expressed by our worldwide network of over 300 partner organizations in more than 60 countries. Together, we challenge power structures that exclude and silence those who are different.

Minority Rights Group is an international non-governmental organization with an international governing Council that meets twice a year. We have consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and observer status with the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights. Minority Rights Group is also registered with the Organization of American States.

  • What we do

    Our work is informed by the unique needs expressed by our partners. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. From international advocacy and strategic litigation to media programmes and training, take a look at the diverse range of work we do.

  • Coalitions and networks

    There is power in numbers. We belong to numerous coalitions and networks where we join efforts with like-minded organizations on issues concerning minority and indigenous rights.

  • Donors and annual reports

    Our work would not be possible without the support of our funders. Take a look at our donors, strategy, annual reports and audited accounts.

  • Careers

    Working at Minority Rights Group means being part of a movement calling for a more just world. Explore opportunities to further your career while making a positive difference for minorities and indigenous peoples.

Our people

Meet our dedicated team based in 30 countries worldwide.

Filter by surname or search by expertise:
  • Sira Thiam

    Disability Intersectional Programme Officer

    Sira’s research interests lie in intersectionality, critical sociology and legal mechanisms of repression.

  • Giulia Di Mattia

    Central (London) Administrator

    Giulia joined MRG in March 2010. Before joining MRG, she worked at the British Red Cross, Council of Europe, the UN OHCHR and Amnesty International.

  • Geofrey Sabiiti

    Africa Conflict Project Coordinator

    Geofrey has ten years of experience working with international organizations on human rights protection, gender and advocacy programming.

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Our Boards

Our International Council, Finance and General Purposes Committee and Africa Advisory Committee are made up of internationally renowned experts, academics, activists and lawyers who inform our work with their extensive experience and expertise.

  • Amana Dawuda

    Amana Dawuda is a Chartered MCIPD and holds a 1st and 2nd Degrees in Africa Studies from SOAS University of London and a HND in Business and Finance.

    Anastasia Crickley

    Chair

    Anastasia Crickley has challenged and addressed racism throughout her life at local, regional, national and international levels, in direct work with groups experiencing discrimination.

    Astrid Thors

    Astrid is a lawyer and a Finnish politician and the former OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

    Bill Samuel

    Treasurer

    Bill is a chartered accountant with broad private sector experience in banking, finance, and tourism.

    George Ngwane

    George is a Senior Chevening Fellow in conflict prevention from the University of York.

    José Guevara Bermúdez

    José has extensive practical experience in the area of human rights and international criminal law.

    Pratima Gurung

    Pratima is an academic activist from Nepal. Pratima has been instrumental in raising the voices of women, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities.

    Vivek Sinha

    Vivek has three decades of industry, entrepreneurship, management consulting and advisory experience serving profit and non-profit organizations.

  • Amana Dawuda

    Amana Dawuda is a Chartered MCIPD and holds a 1st and 2nd Degrees in Africa Studies from SOAS University of London and a HND in Business and Finance.

    Ayesha Saran

    Ayesha works for the Barrow Cadbury Trust, an independent charitable foundation based in London.

    Bill Samuel

    Treasurer

    Bill is a chartered accountant with broad private sector experience in banking, finance, and tourism.

    Tom Astor

    Tom is an entrepreneur specializing in the media. He has run a number of businesses and produced a variety of projects in the film, TV, music and advertising industries.

    Vivek Sinha

    Vivek has three decades of industry, entrepreneurship, management consulting and advisory experience serving profit and non-profit organizations.

  • Sarah Ashanut Ossiya

    Nairobi, Kenya

    Dr. Sarah Ashanut Ossiya, a Ugandan, is the presiding and one of the longest-serving Chairs of MRG Africa’s Advisory Committee.

    Evelyne Naiseriae

    Nairobi, Kenya

    Everlyne hails from Kenya’s indigenous pastoralist Maasai community. She is a social scientist with years of experience working on land and natural resource governance.

    George Ngwane

    George is a Senior Chevening Fellow in conflict prevention from the University of York.

    José Guevara Bermúdez

    José has extensive practical experience in the area of human rights and international criminal law.

Our regional offices

  • Minority Rights Group Africa

    Minority Rights Group Africa (MRGA) was established in 2003 in Kampala, Uganda. We believe the participation and representation of minority and indigenous voices is essential for a well-functioning society.

  • Minority Rights Group Europe

    Minority Rights Group Europe (MRGE) was established in 1996 in Budapest, Hungary. We believe that building networks and coalitions is a key element in the protection of human rights.

Our activities and services

  • Legal cases

    Our pioneering legal work advances the protection of minorities and indigenous peoples under international law.

  • Programmes and projects

    We deliver programmes and projects with our minority and indigenous partner organizations around the world.

  • Training and coaching

    We provide training and coaching to civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists and other professionals and decision makers on minority and indigenous rights.

  • Advice

    We provide advice to a wide range of institutions such as UN agencies, government departments and companies, sharing our expertise on minority and indigenous rights.

  • Evaluations

    Our work and continuous evaluation of our efforts offer overwhelming evidence that the inclusion of minority and indigenous communities leads to stronger, more cohesive societies.

  • Reports

    For over 50 years, MRG has not only documented the challenges faced by ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, but also suggested solutions to those challenges.

Our history

Minority Rights Group International was founded in 1969 by David Astor, the then-editor and proprietor of the Observer newspaper in the United Kingdom.

Troubled by the regular reports of ethnic persecution around the world that crossed his desk, Astor wanted to publish information about human rights violations and discrimination in order to shame governments into improving their record. With a first major grant secured from the Ford Foundation, a press conference in London in November 1969 launched Minority Rights Group, ‘an organization for the defence of oppressed minorities worldwide’.

1969: David Astor founds Minority Rights Group International
David Astor, former editor of the Observer newspaper and founder of MRG.

David Astor, editor and proprietor of the Observer newspaper, was troubled by the regular reports of ethnic persecution crossing his desk. Astor brought together a small group of journalists, academics and anti-apartheid campaigners to found MRG with the goal of addressing these issues.

1969: MRG hires its first staff member
Laurence Gandar. Credit: International Press Institute.

MRG was run in a purely voluntary capacity prior to receiving funding from the Ford Foundation in 1968. This grant was used to hire MRG’s first paid employee, Laurence Gandar, a journalist and editor from South Africa best known for his work as editor at the South African newspaper the Rand Daily Mail. In November of 1969, Gandar was named Director of Minority Rights Group in London where he implemented a new research and publications programme on minorities facing serious discrimination as a result of their race, ethnicity, religion, language or minority identity. Gandar’s work dubbed MRG ‘the organization for the defence of oppressed minorities worldwide’. Gandar stayed in this position for three years before returning to South Africa.

1970: MRG publishes its first report, ‘Religious Minorities in the Soviet Union’

MRG published its first report in December of 1970 with author Michael Bourdeaux. This report would go on to be updated and reprinted numerous times.

1971: ‘The Two Irelands- the problem of the double minority’
‘The Two Irelands: The problem of the double minority’, published by Minority Rights Group, 1971.

The Two Irelands: the double minority‘ was the second report ever published by MRG. It was written by author Harold Jackson and was described by Chatham House as ‘the best pages on Ireland’s contemporary political problems that have found their way into contemporary literature’. The report was welcomed by Catholic and Protestant commentators for its balanced representation of the problems encountered by both communities in Northern Ireland. This work on Ireland was later reported to have influenced analyses and contributed to discussions surrounding the Good Friday Agreement.

1974: MRG gains consultative status with the UN

MRG gained consultative status with the UN, and with a direct focus on advocacy, MRG made the most of its new-found status by successfully supporting minority and indigenous peoples’ initiatives at the international level. MRG affiliate groups emerged in Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden as a result.

1975: MRG publishes ‘The Palestinians‘ and ‘The Kurds
‘The Kurds’, published by Minority Rights Group, 1975.

These reports by David McDowall were ground-breaking for their day, generating international coverage on issues that were fairly unknown at the time.

1977: Birth of the first World Directory on Minorities
Cover of the ‘World Directory of Minorities’, published by Minority Rights Group, 1997.

The release of this Directory was the culmination of work that began in 1975, and would be the first section in a three-part volume called ‘World Minorities’, later known as the ‘World Directory of Minorities‘ then the modern ‘World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples’, now presented via our World Map.

1987: MRG publishes ‘The Armenians’
‘The Armenians’, published by Minority Rights Group, 1981.

At the time of its publishing, ‘The Armenians‘ by David Marshall Lang and Christopher J. Walker was one of few accessible accounts of this genocide.

1982: MRG is awarded the UNA International Media Peace Prize

MRG was awarded the UNA Media Peace Prize for its work publishing reports exposing little-known minority rights issues. MRG’s report ‘The Armenians‘, which focused on the ‘hidden holocaust’ and Armenian culture more generally, was a recipient.

1988: An MRG mentee becomes the first Roma TV presenter of the former Czechoslovakia

A graduate of a Roma mentoring and capacity building project was appointed as the first Roma presenter on national TV in what was then Czechoslovakia.

1992: MRG’s decade of advocacy influences the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities

After years of advocacy, the UN General Assembly adopted the ‘UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities‘. This was a major step forward for minority rights and demonstrated MRG’s growing influence.

1994: MRG publishes ‘Cutting the Rose’
‘Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation – The Practice and Its Prevention’, published by Minority Rights Group, 1994.

Cutting the Rose: Female Genital Mutilation – The Practice and its Prevention‘, was a groundbreaking report which raised world attention to the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM). It was written by Efua Dorkenoo, affectionately known as ‘Mama Efua’, and was selected by an international jury in 2002 as one of ‘Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century’. Dorkenoo went on to become a global expert on FGM, pioneered the global movement to end the practice and worked internationally for more than 30 years to see the campaign ‘move from a problem lacking in recognition to a key issue for governments around the world’.

1995: ‘No Longer Invisible’ is released
‘No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today’, published by Minority Rights Group, 1994.

This report focused on the distinct and extraordinary diverse ethnic and cultural identities of Afro-Latin Americans that had received little official recognition up until this point. Despite being published in 1995, it remains ground breaking and relevant to this day.

1996: MRG expands its European work in earnest

MRG hired its first staff member out of Budapest, and its work based in Europe begins in earnest. This European sister office of MRG initially aimed to promote and protect the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples across Europe and Central Asia, later expanding its focus to include South Asia and the bordering regions of the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle East and North Africa.

2001: MRG appoints its first staff member in Kampala
Colleagues from Minority Rights Group Africa (MRGA) stand outside the office in Kampala, Uganda.

With the appointment of MRG’s first member of staff in Kampala, Uganda, MRG’s Africa office was born. It aims to strengthen the voices of minorities and indigenous peoples mainly across Sub-Saharan Africa – addressing capacity building of partners, mentoring, legal empowerment through paralegal training and national and regional advocacy.

2006: First annual report on ‘The State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples’ is published
‘State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2016’, published by Minority Rights Group, 2016.

The first ‘Peoples under Threat‘ analysis is published in the first ‘State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples’ annual report, which would become an ongoing and important project for MRG. The SWM reports have now evolved into our ‘Minority and Indigenous Trends’ reports, which annually take a global look at cross-cutting minority and indigenous issues around a particular theme to this day.

2007: The Minority Forum is created

The United Nations Forum on Minority Issues replaced the United Nations Working Group on Minorities which was founded thanks to the lobbying of MRG, amongst others. The Forum meets annually, with two working days allocated to thematic discussions and consultations with regional groups.

2008: MRG’s ‘World Directory’ goes digital

The World Directory was established as on online database, allowing for more continuous updating and wider readership. The Directory, now our World Map, remains one of MRG’s most used resources.

2007: MRG contributes to the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

MRG contributed particularly to the Asian indigenous input of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007. The Declaration defines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, including their ownership rights to cultural expression, identity, language, employment, health and education .

2009: Key legal victory regarding discrimination in participation at the European regional legal level
‘Discrimination and political participation in Bosnia and Herzegovina’, published by Minority Rights Group, 2010.

The landmark Sejdić and Finci case was won at the European Court of Human Rights, with MRG representing Jakob Finci. The Court found that that applicants’ ineligibility to stand for election to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s House of Peoples violated their rights.

2011: MRG launches online advocacy training programme
A screenshot of MRG’s online course platform.

MRG realizes the effectiveness of online training and completed its first online course, developed and run for over 600 individuals in 36 countries across three continents.

2012: MRG establishes the Eastern Partnership Minorities Network

MRG established a network of 80 organizations to work on the Eastern Partnership Minorities Network (EaPMN), a European Union initiative aimed at tightening relationships between the EU and its Eastern partners. The establishment of this partnership provided a substantial opportunity for minorities to influence decision-making on issues affecting them.

2016: MRG produces its first resource on intersectional discrimination, ‘Life at the Margins’
Dalit mother and child in India. Credit: Thessaly La Force.

Life at the Margins: The Challenges of Multiple Discriminations‘ highlights  multiple forms of discrimination that minorities and indigenous peoples face on account of their age, gender, livelihoods, disabilities, sexuality and gender identities.

2017: MRG wins key legal victory for the Ogiek Community of Mau in the then-newly established African Court on Human and Peoples Rights
Ogiek community members outside the African Court buildings in Arusha on the day of the judgment.

After an 8-year legal battle, the Ogiek indigenous community of Kenya’s Mau forest won a historic land rights case against the Kenyan government at the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights with the help of MRG.

2018: Said and Yarg legal case victory
Said and Yarg. Credit: Anti-Slavery International.

Having worked on the case, MRG and Anti-Slavery international welcomed the landmark ruling of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in the case of Said and Yarg Salem against Mauritania.

2015: MRG changes perceptions on racism through street theatre programmes

MRG programmes reached audiences of 100,000 across the Middle East and North Africa through performances of street theatre against racism.

2019: MRG celebrates its 50th anniversary
MRG’s 50th anniversary logo.

Discover our 50th anniversary report >

2020: MRG responds to the Covid-19 pandemic 
Distribution of Covid-19 information among the Bambuti community in the DRC by MRG-partner Réseau des Associations Autochtones Pygmées (RAPY). Credit: RAPY

MRG reacted to the pandemic outbreak by working with partners to understand the impacts of Covid-19 on minority and indigenous communities.  We documented cases where food distribution was skipping or discriminating against minority communities and lobbied providers to ensure food aid or cash-for-food support reached those affected. MRG supported marginalized minority communities with a range of Covid-19 related facilities and supplies, from hygiene products and personal protective equipment to mattresses in remote quarantine centres. We also enabled public health information in local languages, and produced a wealth of research on the pandemic since.

2020: Historic judgment issued for Black Tunisian Hamden Dali 
Hamden Dali. Credit: Slim Kacem/ROOTS

Following legal support by MRG, a Court in Tunisia issued a historic judgement in favour of Hamden Dali, an 81-year-old man from Djerba, allowing him to remove the prefix ‘Atig’ from his name and official documents. The prefix is a reference to the fact his ancestors were enslaved. The ruling paved the way for other Black Tunisians to change their names and finally gain the right to choose their own identity and leave their ancestors’ slavery behind. 

2022: MRG publishes landmark investigation, ‘To Purge the Forest by Force: Organized violence against Batwa in Kahuzi-Biega National Park’ 
Left: ‘To Purge the Forest by Force’ front cover. Credit: MRG. Right: An aerial photo of the village of Muyange immediately after the July 2021 attacks showing burnt out homes, structures and charred ground. Credit: Robert Flummerfelt.

MRG exposes a campaign of highly organized, grievous and widespread human rights abuses carried out against the indigenous Batwa of Kahuzi-Biega, in an attempt to violently expel them from their ancestral home, the forests that make up Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report leads to a wider conversation about the balance between conservation and human rights and leads to donors imposing conditions concerning respect for human rights on Park authorities.  

2022: Ogiek win another landmark victory in African Court 
Ogiek community members outside the Court after the 2022 judgment. Credit: Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights delivers a reparations judgment which sets out remedies for the breaches found in the 2017 judgment. The reparations judgment represents a hard-won and long-awaited victory for the Ogiek after decades of dispossession, non-recognition and marginalization. 

2022: CERD makes historic recommendations informed by MRG report
Luciana Viegas of Vidas Negras com Deficiência Importam (left, holding a yellow VNDI t-shirt) and Lauren Avery of Minority Rights Group (right, seated) in Geneva, Switzerland, presenting the alternative report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Credit: Lauren Avery/MRG

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) makes historic recommendations relating to intersectional discrimination on grounds of race and disability to the Government of Brazil. These recommendations were informed by recommendations made by MRG and partners, Vidas Negras com Deficiência Importam, Brazil and the University of York, UK, in an alternative report presented to the committee on the situation of Black people with disabilities in Brazil. 

2023: MRG responds to shrinking civic space with major sub-granting programmes 
Representatives from organizations participating in the Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development programme with MRG staff in Budapest. Credit: MRG

In response to increasing challenges and crackdowns for civil society across the globe, MRG launches two of its largest-ever international sub-granting programmes in the Middle East and North Africa, and Eastern and Central Europe. The programmes focus on strengthening civil society so that it can more effectively protect the rights of minorities and other marginalized communities. In the MENA region, Minorities, Accountability and Civic Space, and in Europe, Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development, offer almost 100 grassroots CSOs financial support and capacity building as well as facilitating dialogue between CSOs and decision-makers. 

2023: Former Congolese warlord Roger Lumbala Tshitenga indicted 
Roger Lumbala attends a press briefing in Uganda’s capital Kampala on January 8, 2013. Credit: Peter Busomoke/AFP via Getty Images

Relying heavily on evidence collected and published by MRG in 2004, Roger Lumbala Tshitenga is indicted for his alleged complicity in and conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity including murder, torture, rape, pillage and enslavement, including sexual slavery, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The alleged human rights abuses centred on Bambuti community members and were first documented by MRG and our partner Réseau des Associations Autochtones Pygmées du Congo and published in the 2004 report ‘Erasing the Board’. MRG is a civil party in the case and is working to ensure that indigenous Bambuti survivors are a part of this legal process seeking justice and reparations for the harms done to them decades ago.  

An Ogiek elder explains the ruling by the African Court of Human Rights stating that the Ogiek community of Mau had had their rights violated and deserved compensation, December 2018. Credit: Karolina Klinkova

  • Our strategy

    We work with ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and indigenous peoples to secure their rights and promote understanding between communities.

  • Stories

    Discover the latest insights from our global network of staff, partners and allies.

  • Events

    Join us for insightful discussions at webinars, screenings, exhibitions and more.