Dec 06, 2012

Strong Presence Of UNPO Representatives At Fifth Forum On Minority Issues

Almost a third of all UNPO Members attended the Fifth edition of the Forum, where they shared their experiences and discussed the challenges facing minority groups worldwide.

More than thirty representatives of twelve UNPO Members (Afrikaner, Ahwazi, Assyria, Crimean Tatars, East Turkestan, Haratin, Hmong, Iranian Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Khmer Krom, Ogaden, and West Balochistan) attended the Fifth session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, held on 27 & 28 November 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s Forum focused on the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which was adopted 20 years ago.


Pre-sessional day

On Monday morning, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a discussion on the role of the UN in advancing the protection of minorities and combatting racial discrimination. The event gathered representatives from the UN (including Ms. Rita Izsák, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues and H.E. Christian Strohal, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council), NGOs (with the presence of Mr. Mark Lattimer, director of Minority Rights Group International), regional organizations and minority groups. The event focused on the progress and challenges facing minority groups within the framework of the UN.


Opening day of the Forum

The Forum was opened with statements and remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (via a video), President of the Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay and Independent Expert on Minority Issues Rita Izsák. The discussions of the day focused on the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 1992. Experts in the field of minority issues, including scholars and activists who were involved in the drafting of the Declaration, used this opportunity to reflect on how it has lived up to the expectations and the role of the Declaration in addressing new challenges facing minorities.
During lunch time, Minority Rights Group International and the Permanent Mission of Austria co-hosted a discussion entitled “Strategies to Protect and Promote the Rights of Religious Minorities: Effective Participation in Public and Political Life”. Minority groups used this additional opportunity to present the challenges they face when trying to access political life, ranging from discriminatory practices to reprisals against minority activists.

Following the side event, the Forum reconvened for the second part of the day. Representatives from minority groups, including UNPO Members, took the floor to explain how they have incorporated the Declaration into their activism and to present practical examples of the use of the Declaration.


Second Day of the Forum

The second day of the Forum focused on the challenges and problems encountered in the practical implementation of the Declaration, as well as future opportunities and initiatives to achieve its objectives. Many UNPO Members decided to speak under these agenda items.

Speaking on behalf of the World Uyghur Congress, Mr. Michael Phillips led off the open discussion of this issue in reference to the Uyghur population in East Turkestan. The WUC statement addressed the issue of the discriminatory laws facing the Uyghur population in the People’s Republic of China and how they represent a significant hurdle to the implementation of the Declaration. Whilst nearly all statements by NGO were not objected to by the States, China immediately raised a point of order without specifying exactly their issue, drawing support from Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Greece. However, the United States, Norway and Switzerland affirmed their support for the right of NGOs to take the floor without interruption and questioned China's point of order.


Pre-sessional day of the Forum


Pre-sessional day of the Forum - part 2




Mr. Biram Dah Abeid delivers a statement denouncing the enslavement of the Haratin in Mauritania


* UNPO Member statements can be downloaded from the column to the right of this page *