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
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 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‘
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
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.