Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
Strengthening the capacity of minorities and indigenous peoples to advocate for implementation of international standards
This evaluation reviewed a three year long programme of work with partners in 12 states in Central Asia, Central America, West Africa and South East Asia to research and submit materials to UN Treaty Bodies, lobby those bodies on minority issues and then campaign for implementation of UN Treaty Body recommendations in their countries. The project was jointly managed by MRG and ICES (based in Sri Lanka). The evaluator found some strengths, particularly in terms of the work completed in Central Asia and Central America but was less impressed with the work in West Africa and South East Asia.
“In Central America, Coordinadora Diriangen, one of the Nicaraguan participant organisations, reported that it had prepared a draft law on indigenous peoples in the Central and Pacific regions, which they submitted to a parliamentary committee for consideration. They reported that what they had learnt about the provisions of the International Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination was invaluable in preparing this draft. Coordinadora Diriangen also successfully lobbied the National Assembly to adopt a reform to the Law on the Electrical Industry, whereby compensation will be paid to indigenous communities in Sébaco and Jinotega for the use of their lands for hydroelectric plants for the past 40 years.”
“In Guatemala the project has achieved more than its original goal, as the NGOs which participated in the preparation of an alternative report for CERD in 2005 have formed a semi-permanent coordinating body. Several NGOs whose staff and supporters were indigenous Maya were clear in stating to me that they did not work with one another before 2004 and that the MRG project had played a crucial role in bringing them together. This seems likely to ensure that the project will go on having further impact. The NGOs which participated in the preparation of an alternative report on Guatemala for CERD in 2005 (presenting themselves as the Consejo de Organizaciones por la Observancia y Verificación de los Instrumentos contra la Discriminación y el Racismo en Guatemala) went on to create a standing NGO body (the Consejo de Organizaciones por la Observancia y Verificación de los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas en Guatemala – which in practice now calls itself an ‘Observatory’). This is the body which prepared a further report a year after its first alternative report to CERD and sent a delegation to Geneva in August 2007.”
The evaluator suggested that MRG should do more to try to mediate between partners where there is a history of tension or conflict between groups representing different minorities or indigenous peoples within a country as some problems had interfered with progress on this project in some cases. He suggested that MRG rethink its ways of working with partners and monitoring their work and the work they may in turn be supporting.