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UN Declaration key to educating minorities about rights and holding governments to account, says MRG

18 December 2012

Minorities throughout the world have benefited immensely from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, says Minority Rights Group International on the 20th Anniversary of the adoption of the historic document.

‘Knowing one’s rights is a first and critical step towards empowerment, and it is clear that the Declaration can play a hugely important role in educating minorities about their rights, as well as providing them a useful tool when they seek to remind their governments of their obligations,’ says Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications.

‘Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go in order to fully implement this historic document and ensure that more governments respect the principles that it contains,’ he added.

To mark the Anniversary MRG has published Know Your Rights: a Community Guide to the UN Declaration on Minorities. The guide aims to celebrate the international recognition of minority rights, and to help community activists protect their rights.

MRG has gathered examples from around the world of how minority communities are using the Declaration as part of their efforts to assert their rights.

In Vietnam, ethnic minorities face widespread prejudice. They make up over 14 per cent of the country’s population, and many live in remote mountainous areas with little access to health and education.

With support from MRG, the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment conducted a campaign during 2012, advocating for the inclusion of minority groups in development planning. Their activities included training journalists on combating discrimination in the media, and translating and distributing the Declaration. The campaign has already resulted in the media exposing stereotypes, and covering issues of cultural identity and language loss.

The Zimbabwe Organization for the Youth in Politics (ZOYP) has been using the Declaration to lobby the government to ensure that marginalized ethnic groups, such as the Kalanga and Tonga, can participate in the country’s political system. ZOYP translated the Declaration into the Tonga language and used it during workshops with local community organizations, resulting in increased Tonga political representation.

In Moldova, the government has already taken steps to protect the rights of minorities by incorporating provisions of the Declaration into national legislation. Nevertheless, people belonging to minority groups continue to face discrimination and there has been an increase in hate-speech against minorities, especially Jews and Roma.

The National Institute for Women of Moldova (“Equality”) holds sessions on interethnic tolerance with university professors and school teachers. The participants are introduced to their country’s minority rights legislation and the Declaration. Teachers are then expected to incorporate what they have learned into their own course plans.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 1992, and is the primary UN document dedicated to the rights of minorities.

MRG, with the help of its partners around the world, has translated the Declaration into 29 languages.

Notes to editors

• Interview opportunities are available with Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communication.

For more information contact MRG’s Press Office:
Emma Eastwood
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7989699984
E: [email protected]
Twitter: @MinorityRights

• Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.