The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international membership-based organization established to empower the voices of unrepresented and marginalized peoples worldwide and to protect their fundamental human rights.
The peoples represented within the UNPO membership are all united by one shared condition: they are denied equal representation in the institutions of national or international governance. As a consequence, their opportunity to participate on the national or international stage is limited, and they struggle to fully realize their rights to civil and political participation and to control their economic, social and cultural development. In many cases, they are subject to the worst forms of violence and repression.
UNPO is a unique presence in the international arena in that it is built and primarily funded by its members. This gives it a strong connection to those suffering the consequences of the exclusion that the organization seeks to address. And it means that UNPO is able to address issues that often remain hidden because UNPO has the freedom to raise issues that others cannot due to political or funding constraints.
The organization consists of a General Assembly of members, which serves as a deliberative body for decisionmaking, solidarity and standard setting among unrepresented nations and peoples, and a number of Foundations established to provide secretariat services for the General Assembly and to improve the respect for the rights of unrepresented peoples everywhere through research, education and public campaigns.
UNPO was conceived of in the late 1980s by exiled leaders of people living under communist oppression, Linnart Mäll of the Congress of Estonia, Erkin Alptekin of the Uyghur people, and Lodi Gyari of Tibet, together with Michael Van Walt van Praag, the international law advisor of the 14th Dalai Lama. A key goal was to replicate the powerful message of nonviolence and interethnic tolerance in the face of oppression exhibited by the Tibetan people and championed by the 14th Dalai Lama and to provide a forum in which others are encouraged and supported to adopt similar approaches.
The UNPO was formally founded in February 1991 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, by representatives of movements belonging to Australian Aboriginals, Armenia, Crimean Tatars, Cordillera, East Turkestan, Estonia, Georgia, the Greek Minority in Albania, Kurdistan, Latvia, Palau, Tibet, Taiwan, Tatarstan and West Papua. They were joined just a few months later by representatives from Abkhazia, Aceh, Assyria, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, South Moluccas, Bougainville, Chechnya, Kosova, Zanzibar, and the Mairi and Iraqi Turkmen people.
Since then, UNPO’s membership has grown steadily from its original founders, with membership from more than 45 peoples worldwide, comprising over 300 million people lacking true representation in domestic or international forums. Since its founding, many members have achieved their movement's goals and found a formal seat for their people at the national or international level and have, thus, left the organization as their peoples are no longer considered to be "unrepresented". More history of the organization, including charts of its past and current membership, can be found on its Wikipedia page.
UNPO General Assembly & Presidency
The General Assembly, composed of delegations of UNPO members, serves as the deliberative body of the UNPO. It meets every eighteen months and provides a forum for members to share experiences, successes and issues, and to reaffirm their commitments to the principles of the UNPO Covenant to which each member must subscribe:
- The equal right of all peoples to self-determination;
- Adherence to internationally-accepted human rights standards;
- Adhereance to the principles of democratic pluralism and rejection of intolerance;
- Promotion of non-violence and the rejection of terrorism and violence as instruments of policy;
- Protection of the natural environment.
It is also a venue for considering specific topics of concern and for the adoption of Member-specific resolutions that help to set standards related to the rights of unrepresented peoples.
The General Assembly discusses the achievements and shortcomings in the organisation's performance since the previous Assembly and agrees on strategies and membership issues. In addition, it the General Assembly elects the Presidency Members and the organisation's President and two Vice-Presidents. It also elects the General Secretary and the Treasurer for a mandate of three years.
UNPO's Presidency is composed of eight Members, in addition to a President and two Vice-Presidents. The Presidency supervises the implementation of the overall policy of the organisation during its term, as mandated by the Assembly, and is tasked with monitoring compliance of UNPO members (current and prospective) with the Covenant of the UNPO. Certain members of the Presidency sit on boards of the UNPO Foundations, to ensure that the work of the Foundations is in line with their statutory purpose and goals and overall strategy.
UNPO Secretariat & Foundations
The UNPO members contribute annually to the creation and operation of UNPO foundations, Stichting Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (a Dutch Public Benefit Organization) and UNPO USA (a US 501(c)(3) charitable organization). These Foundations operate independently of the individual memebrs of the UNPO, under the supervision of their boards and directed by their governing statutes.
These Foundations employ the staff listed on this website and serve two purposes: to provide secretarial services to the functioning of the UNPO General Assembly and Presidency, helping to Build the network; and to work for general improvements in the respect for the the rights of unrepresented peoples worldwide, through Education and Campaigns.
Thus, in addition to the secretarial duties, the Foundations operate in part as think tanks conducing research on and providing guidance to unrepresented peoples and explaining them to youth and the general public, and in part as human rights advocates, campaiging for policy and practice improvements needed within movements for unrepresented peoples and within domestic, regional and international governance institutions to fully safeguard and realize the rights of unrepresented peoples.