Dec 06, 2023

UNPO celebrates empowering United Nations 16th Forum on Minority Issues

The 16th Forum on Minority issues was held at the Palais de Nations, Geneva from 30 November - 1 December, under the theme 'Minorities and Cohesive Societies: Equality, Social Inclusion, and Socio-economic Participation’. The UNPO Secretariat leaves the forum with intense optimism. We were honored to receive members and witness their impassioned engagement, networking, and advocacy.

In the build-up to the forum, the Secretariat provided extensive support to members wishing to engage in the forum. This included conducting several member meetings that served two purposes; to inform and equip members with knowledge on the forum and how to effectively engage with it, and to give members an opportunity to share their updates, insights, and perspectives in light of this year's theme, to ensure the the Secretariat could best represent all members upon attendance.

From 29 November to 1 December, the Secretariat was exceptionally proud to support the communities that attended and intervened at the forum: the UNPO President, Ms. Edna Adan Ismail (intervened on behalf of the UNPO), Sindh (intervened), Southern Mongolia (intervened), Catalonia (intervened via pre-recorded statement), Iranian Kurdistan (sat on the panel of a side event), Iranian Baluchistan (intervened), East Turkestan (intervened), Niger Delta (intervened), Somaliland (intervened), UNPO Youth. The Forum also provided a rich opportunity for the Secretariat to organize multiple gatherings where UNPO members could share updates with each other, solidify ties within the UNPO network, and have the opportunity to engage with other actors in the field.

The Secretariat was honoured to receive UNPO President, Edna Adan Ismail. Ms. Adan Ismail delivered an In-Person intervention on behalf of the UNPO during Session 2 of the forum. Her powerful and timely intervention, which was a compilation of the views of UNPO members, outlines how systemic discrimination is ultimately driven by a misunderstanding of the right to determination. The following extract was taken from the speech delivered by President Edna Adan Ismail, the full version of which can be found here starting at 24:14:

The global community is failing to integrate minorities into societies. The cause of this systemic discrimination is simple; a misunderstanding of the right to self-determination. Self-determination is not a threat to cohesive societies, but rather the precondition to their fruition. Mutual trust and dialogue must begin with communities being imbued with the inherent right to define what happens to them.

Minorities are ostracized from birth; many are not afforded identification, preventing access to education; which is neither facilitated in their mother tongue nor caters to vocational requirements. Minorities are excluded from consultation in development projects, resulting in drastic inequalities and severe environmental damage.

Accordingly, we strongly propose the following recommendations:

  • The prioritization of minority languages in education and their protection in the workplace;
  • An increase of spaces for inclusive dialogue to ensure sustainable and equitable development;
  • The incorporation of the right to self-determination into the rights of minorities.

To all of the minorities in this room, we must do everything in our power to forge partnerships with each other. In spite of the challenges that minorities face, our strength will undoubtedly lie in our unity, to seek justice for all as well as for the self-determination of our nations.

Upon reflection, the Secretariat leaves the forum with intense optimism, feeling extremely empowered by our members and privileged by the diversity and compassion present within our global network. The forum, in addition to allowing members to effectively and compassionately advocate for their community on the international stage, facilitated exceptional opportunities for the building of networks, alliances, and future strategies. Whilst the forum highlighted the significance of Minority Rights and how far we have come, it also showed us that there is still a lot of progress required; progress that can only be made through solidarity, community, and collective effort between all minority peoples. 

The UNPO Secretariat was honored to receive and assist members who were able to attend Geneva and work for the interests of those who could not. The Secretariat is deeply grateful to all participants for their dedication and commitment. Your active engagement and invaluable contributions further our collective mission to uphold the rights and amplify the voices of minority communities globally.