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Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of UN Declaration on Minority Rights and Future Challenges

10 July 2012

This statement was delivered by Maggie Murphy at the 20th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Inter-active Dialogue with the High Commissioner, agenda items 2-3.

Thank you, Madame President.

Minority Rights Group International welcomes the summary report of the panel discussion to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Minorities held at the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council.

We also very much welcome the announced creation of a new UN Network on Racial Discrimination and Minorities and hope that this will further ensure that the rights of minorities are fully mainstreamed across the entire UN system. Together with the decision to continue the mandate of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, and alongside a series of thematic meetings and events organised by the OHCHR throughout 2012, we hope that this will strengthen observance of a Declaration which in its twentieth year remains unfortunately, as necessary as ever before.

The Declaration is, of course, hollow without implementation. During the Panel discussion, states contributed many very interesting cases of good practice, and we hope those examples encourage other states to think innovatively about implementing the Declaration on a national level.

MRG would welcome further consideration of suggestions made during the panel to endow the Declaration´s provisions with legal force. This could be through fully incorporating the rights and responsibilities within, into national legislation or by creating new binding instruments at the regional and/or international level.

A new decade in the life of the Declaration will see old and new challenges. MRG notes that in the field of land rights and natural resources, a tightrope is currently being walked between life and livelihood of minorities and economic gain. We launch the annual ‘State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples‘ on exactly these issues tomorrow. This report highlights the need to ensure that minorities and indigenous peoples are not just consulted but participate fully in the planning and implementation of development projects which affect their lives.

In light of this, we conclude by asking the High Commissioner what she feels will be the greatest challenges that minorities will face in the coming decade.