Human Rights Council, 6th Session
Joint statement* by Minority Rights Group International, the International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, the International Federation for the Protection of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and other Minorities, Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions, Society for Threatened Peoples, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitie entre les peuples (MRAP), Forum Asia.
Thank you Mr. President. I speak on behalf of Minority Rights Group International and 12 other NGOs.
The Working Group on Minorities has been successful in bringing more diverse voices to the UN. Members of minorities have valuable knowledge on a range of issues that impact on their communities and are consequently experts in their own fields. Where minority concerns are ignored, marginalization increases leading to greater poverty and sometimes, to conflict. The UN has consistently recognised that the protection of minorities contributes to peace and social stability and therefore is critical to its effective work. We therefore welcome the initiative taken by Austria to find a consensus on a new forum to continue the work of the Working Group.
The forum should:
- Provide a platform where minorities can raise issues and hold constructive dialogue with governments;
- Contribute to the practical understanding and implementation of the Declaration, for example through consideration of thematic areas of particular concern to minorities and
- Work towards mainstreaming minorities within the UN through engagement with UN agencies.
The mandate of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues is extremely valuable and we welcome her good work. However, neither the work of the Independent Expert alone nor a forum alone is sufficient to address the problems faced by the 20% of the world’s population who are members of minorities. The work of the IEMI is very different to that of the forum: the IEMI is not a platform for minorities to bring their issues to the UN and hold direct dialogue with governments. Nevertheless there should be a strong link between the forum and the IEMI to ensure good cooperation.
While the ECOSOC status system important in ensuring legitimacy and quality of NGO input, however it is critical to the effectiveness of the UN, to hear the voices of vulnerable groups such as minorities. It is therefore important to ensure the widest possible participation, including that of non-ECOSOC NGOs.
The minority NGO caucus, in statements to the Working Group, has consistently emphasised the value NGOs give to constructive dialogue with governments and has welcomed the increasing trend toward this in the last few WGM sessions. Minority NGOs attending the WGM have regularly reported to us that they find constructive dialogue with governments much more effective and useful than confrontation. With the aim of the new forum also being that of constructive dialogue, the participation of NGOs regardless of ECOSOC status should be welcomed. More flexible forms of participation also increase voices from developing countries at the UN.
Minority Rights Group and International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, IMADR recently launched a petition urging the Human Rights Council to establish a forum for minorities which at a minimum contains the following three elements:
- is an official UN meeting where minorities can raise issues and engage in dialogue with governments
- facilitates participation of NGOs regardless of ECOSOC status
- allows discussions in the forum to inform the work of the council
In a short period of time, this petition has been signed by over 185 individuals and NGOs from all regions of the world. This shows that there is substantial support for a minority forum beyond the few NGOs able to be present in Geneva today to support this statement.
We therefore urge the Council to establish an effective forum for minorities.
Thank you Mr. President.
* Pax Romana, All for Reparations and Emancipation, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, also support this statement but were unable to be present to sign officially.
 Para 130 World Summit Outcome document GA/RES/60/1, GA resolution ‘Effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities A/RES/60/160, states “the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities contributes to political and social stability and peace.”