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Hopes raised for UN minority adviser

15 August 2004

The UN Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights has added its weight to calls for a special representative of the Secretary-General on minority issues by presenting a ‘draft decision’ to the Commission on Human Rights for approval. The decision, which will face a vote at the more political, state-dominated Commission, highlights the value of such a role in country fact finding and preventive diplomacy, working closely with the Working Group on Minorities (WGM). Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which has long called for the establishment of such a mechanism, suggested that it presents a unique opportunity to consolidate steps already taken to improve the UN’s capacity in early warning and conflict prevention, including the recent appointment of a Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Mendez.

The Sub-Commission adopted by consensus the draft resolution ‘Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities’, which was presented to its fifty-sixth session on 4 August 2004, and included the draft decision on the new minority focused role. MRG spokesperson, Graham Fox, stated: ‘The time is now right for such a mechanism as part of a wider commitment to preventive strategies, which has been lacking for too long. The initiative to create a genocide prevention adviser was a boost to this early warning and urgent action capacity, but this post requires support, links to the Geneva-based human rights machinery, and a direct channel of information on those who are the most vulnerable in situations of conflict, including minorities and indigenous peoples.’

A series of wide ranging recommendations within the minorities resolution are aimed at the development of peaceful and constructive solutions to problems affecting minorities. Amongst these is an additional call for the preparation of a working paper on the advisability of drafting an additional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) containing remedies for violations of minority rights. MRG also welcomed a call for a meeting arranged by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in cooperation with development agencies to further examine, in consultation with MRG and minority representatives, the integration of minority issues in development programming. MRG has been consulting the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on the importance of addressing a range of minority issues and criteria, which it considers critical to achieving sustainable long-term development goals including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The minorities resolution welcomed initiatives by the WGM to improve and strengthen its own working practices and effectiveness, and to encourage greater participation by states that have been poorly represented in the past. To this end, plans to hold regional or sub-regional seminars in cooperation with regional rights mechanisms were welcomed as were thematic initiatives on Afro-descendant and Roma/Sinti issues, which would also be carried out in appropriate regions. Of particular practical interest is an invitation to the OHCHR to consider training workshops at the national level on the implementation of the rights of minorities. MRG has been collaborating with the OHCHR in the delivery of its annual advocacy training for minorities and strongly supports this further initiative.

Notes for editors

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