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UN Summit recognizes role of minority rights in peace and stability

Minority Rights Group, 28/09/2005

The 2005 World Summit outcome document has explicitly recognized that the promotion and protection of minority rights are important to peace and stability. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomed the text as a strong consensual acknowledgement by UN member states of the crucial role of minority rights in the fields of conflict prevention and resolution. MRG has called for practical measures by the UN to more effectively promote neglected minority rights standards and good practice across member states.

Paragraph 130 of the outcome document states: “We note that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities contribute to political and social stability and peace and enrich the cultural diversity and heritage of society”. MRG suggests that the document clearly demonstrates the central role of minority rights in achieving the UN’s goals in the fields of peace and stability, human rights and development.

According to MRG, the summit document provides a valuable package of commitments to minority and indigenous peoples and vulnerable communities. Strong language on the ‘responsibility to protect’ civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity was particularly welcomed in the light of continuing failure in situations such as Darfur, where minorities have been the targets of gross human rights violations. MRG has long urged a more coordinated UN approach in situations of on-going or recent conflict and where there is a danger of conflict developing including in Sudan, Kosovo, Kenya or Laos, for example.

Recognition of the causal relationship between minority rights and peace and stability and the need to prevent gross violations, suggests MRG, demands that minority rights be given greater status across the bodies and agencies of the UN. Spokesperson for MRG, Graham Fox, stated: “A key element of the responsibility to protect vulnerable citizens is the prevention of conflictcand minority rights are increasingly acknowledged as an important component of such conflict prevention. The challenge is to transfer the strong paper commitments of the outcome document into effective and timely action”.

In addition to conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding are recognized as areas requiring renewed effort, and the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission is potentially a major step forward. MRG argues for enhanced attention to minority rights by the UN and its member states within peacekeeping missions, peacebuilding initiatives and integrated missions. Minority and indigenous peoples must be fully consulted and involved amongst a wide range of expert actors in order for new initiatives to prove successful.

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