May 01, 2023

The UNPO held its XVII General Assembly in Barcelona, Catalonia

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) held its XVII General Assembly in Barcelona, Catalonia from April 21-23, 2023. The three-day event brought together representatives from UNPO's member organizations as well as academics, activists, and policymakers, to discuss issues related to human rights, democracy, and self-determination.

The General Assembly was hosted by Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya - Catalan National Assembly, one of UNPO's member organizations, and was attended by our members from around the world in person and online. During the proceedings Ms Mercè Monje Cano, UNPO Executive Director, was named interim General Secretary until a new one was elected, following the departure of Mr Ralph Bunche III earlier this year.

During the General Assembly, and chaired by the current UNPO President, Ms. Edna Adan Ismail, and Ms. Rubina Greenwood and Ms. Elisenda Paluzie, vice-presidents, participants engaged in discussions and workshops on a wide range of topics, including the rights of indigenous peoples, the challenges facing minority communities, and the kind of advocacy they need.

The GA was a great opportunity for members and stakeholders to share ideas and experiences around the right of self-determination. A highlight of the GA was the conversation lead by Prof. Fiona McConnell, UNPO Academic Advisor and Prof. Costas Constantinou, Professor of International Relations at the University of Cyprus, with the participation of Mr. Michael van Walt van Praag, UNPO founder, on the topic of  “Re-imagining self-determination in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities”. As Prof. McConnell and Prof. Constantinou discussed, “The 21st century global order is increasingly haunted by the spectre of self-determination. Whilst conventionally celebrated as a peremptory norm of international law, self-determination is very much a contested right in global political arenas at the United Nations and beyond. Historically linked to the decolonization processes and the post-imperial transformations of the international system, self- determination has remained a key but elusive concept.” (…) “The valorization of self-determination is obvious and welcome as it has been instrumental for emancipatory politics and the liberation struggles of peoples around the globe over the last hundred years. With a resurgence of interest in the right to self- determination both in the context of its institutionalisation vis-aÌ€-vis indigenous rights through UNDRIP, and the continued instrumental use of self-determination to justify colonial expansion, now is an opportune time to take stock of the right and to seek to reimagine its potential”.  

As reaffirmed by the UNPO members during the General Assembly, determining and pursuing self-determination in a non-violent manner is a fundamental right. Accordingly, the UNPO Secretariat will continue working to readdress the current misunderstanding of the right to self-determination, underlining that the right to self-determination should be seen at the heart of true implementation of all other human rights, as well as the creation of an effective international world order capable of responding to issues of global concern.   

Moreover, the refusal of the right of self-determination makes peoples and nations more vulnerable to abuse and discrimination, including facing violent repression. These experiences of vulnerability and exclusion are what bind UNPO member nations and peoples together, standing in solidarity together and reminding the international community of its duties. 

After the General Assembly the members participated in the celebration of the Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George´s Day), a Catalan national holiday where Catalan are known to exchange a book and a rose between each other.

UNPO and its members are grateful to the Catalan National Assembly for their hospitality and support, and we look forward to continuing our work together to promote the rights of unrepresented peoples around the world.