Public Participation and Minorities
A4, 40pp, ISBN 1 897693 88 5
Public participation is a key issue in the context of minority and indigenous peoples’ rights. Minorities and indigenous peoples recognize that, as well as their right to a distinctive group identity, they are entitled to participation in the political, cultural, social and economic life of the countries where they live. Members of majority communities concerned about long-term equity, stability and peace in their societies accept this equally. The lack of such participation can have major repercussions economic costs, violent conflict and ruined lives.
This report by Professor Yash Ghai, a leading constitutional lawyer, clearly describes the range of devices that can be used to provide for participation representation, power sharing, autonomy and self-determination and discusses the experiences of constitutional and political provision for minorities and indigenous peoples. The author supplements this discussion with a wealth of examples: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Fiji, India, Northern Ireland and South Africa, amongst others.
While there is agreement that participation in public affairs is central to minorities’ sense of identity, to their feeling a part of the wider community and to protect their interests, there is less agreement on how such participation should be facilitated and structured. The debate between those who favour as much self-government by minorities as possible and those supporting measures designed to encourage the political integration of minorities is likely to continue. This report recommends avoiding generalizations and instead argues that choices should be made in relation to case-specific circumstances and constraints. With this in mind, the report sets out a menu of possible approaches and modalities in the hope of furthering the cause of intercommunity cooperation throughout the world.