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Public Participation and Minorities

1 July 2003

Public participation is a key issue regarding 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 their countries. 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 many 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, feeling a part of the wider community and protecting 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 to further the cause of inter-community cooperation worldwide.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

Download (2001 original edition, PDF, English)
Download (2003 reviewed edition, PDF, English)


Yash Ghai