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Commission on Human Rights makes slow progress on minority issues

26 April 2004

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has adopted a number of Decisions and Resolutions on minority issues by consensus in its 60th session, which concluded on 23 April in Geneva. These were welcomed by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) as ‘helpful and constructive steps’, some of which will however, require concerted action and political will if they are to be taken forward effectively.

The Commission’s Decision L43 goes some way towards creating a voluntary fund for minority-related activities. This is an important new development which MRG and its partners have lobbied for at the UN Working Group on Minorities (WGM) for a number of years. The next stage is for the recommendation of the Commission to be approved by the General Assembly or the Secretary General at which time the fund can be fully established. Such a fund relies heavily on states to make voluntary financial contributions, however it could contribute significantly to minority rights objectives, for example, by enabling the participation of additional minority representatives at the WGM.

Resolution L75 calls for the High Commissioner on Human Rights to submit a study of ‘options for the timely identification of minority issues and pertaining measuresÂ…’ based on recommendations of the WGM. This will importantly allow for the evaluation of recommendations for a special mechanism to improve minority protection such as a Special Representative of the Secretary General or a Special Rapporteur on Minorities. A new development under this Resolution is a call for UN agencies to cooperate more on minority issues particularly with regard to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to engage with governments in dialogue for that purpose. MRG has helped to establish the important causal link between discrimination and poverty and the fact that addressing the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples will contribute greatly to achieving the ambitious goals of the MDGs.

A further Decision (L47) of the Commission was to ‘take note of’ a recommendation to establish an international year for minorities. This was based on a Sub-Commission recommendation, intended to encourage UN agencies and states to cooperate to contribute to the implementation of the UN Declaration on Minorities. MRG hopes that this step will provide further impetus towards the establishment of such a year which would also focus much needed attention on minority issues globally.

Notes for editors

Read more about the UN Commission on Human Rights’ Resolution on minorities.

For more information, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].