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MRG calls UN Member States to stand up for all humanity

21 September 2022

This statement was delivered at the High-level Meeting of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly to mark the Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Minorities (UNDM) by Joshua Castellino, MRG’s Executive Director, on 21 September 2022.

Your Excellencies, you sit in this august chamber like the many visionaries who in the past 75 years have sought to imagine a better world and plot the route to achieving it. This institution was built during the aftermath of the horrors of World War Two which left a permanent stain on humanity. In saying never again to aggressive wars, genocide and ethnic cleansing while also promoting decolonisation, your predecessors built on a legacy of the many progressive forces throughout history and in every corner of the globe, which were determined to prevent the tyranny of the many from bullying, dominating and subjugating the few.

Equality, non-discrimination, freedom from persecution and leaving no one behind today form the crux of legally binding global, regional and national standards in many of your countries. But within these broad frameworks, the treatment of ethnic, religious, linguistic and racialized minorities, forms the litmus test of how effective these principles are in practice. The adoption of the UN Declaration on the rights of minorities thirty years ago offered the opportunity to establish this as the accepted global legal standard.

Today, we face an existential challenge on our planet caused by the wanton greed that, in replacing circular sustainable economies with the current extractive model, has hastened the approach of planetary boundaries. We need urgent, innovative and inclusive systemic change to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Yet instead of focussing energy on tackling this challenge, we are witnessing a politics of distraction where scapegoats, usually minorities, are identified and pilloried to generate artificial majorities in response to increasing scarcity and human insecurity.

Where empathy, resilience and innovation are most needed, we see entitlement, exploitation and resistance to change. Bullies are in the ascendancy, even though their victories are achieved against massive human failures to combat climate change, address inequality and ensure decent living standards for all.  The resulting society-wide anger is often re-directed towards minorities, rewarding governments which history will judge very poorly.

The visionaries among you need to stand up for all humanity. To enshrine minority rights at the heart of binding enforceable law. To safeguard institutions from being hollowed out by hate. To respond to false narratives that are generating forces that threaten to fragment societies and breach international peace and security. To replace the politics of distraction with policies that prevent our destruction, both environmental and social. Most of all to ensure that the accident of birth is not the only determinant of an individual’s or a community’s worth, achievements and trajectory. In these tough times we need the full force of all human talent, skills and commitment to overcome interconnected challenges and not to satiate the greed of the few.

Photo: United Nations General Assembly, United Nations, New York City, USA, 2005. Credit: Paul VanDerWerf / Flickr.