MINELRES: MRG International: UN approves new watchdog on minorities

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Thu Apr 21 22:32:42 2005

Original sender: Chris Chapman <CHRIS.CHAPMAN@mrgmail.org>

Minority Rights Group International 

Press Release          
21 April 2005             
for immediate release

UN approves new watchdog on minorities

A new United Nations special mechanism on minorities has been approved
by consensus of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at its 61st session
in Geneva. A UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues will engage in
dialogue with governments and minorities worldwide to promote and
protect minority rights. The new post was welcomed by Minority Rights
Group International (MRG), which has campaigned intensively for a new
minorities watchdog, although the organisation criticized attempts by
some states to weaken and undermine its mandate. MRG described the role
as a valuable addition to the resources required to meet the challenge
of widespread and ongoing minority rights violations. 

The new mandate will play a key role in promoting long neglected
minority rights issues within the UN system. Essential to its
effectiveness will be the ability to enter into consultations with
Governments and minorities in a constructive, problem-solving manner, in
order to resolve issues of contention. MRG believes that an experienced
and internationally renowned Independent Expert will provide enhanced
channels within the UN system through which minority concerns can be
specifically addressed. Some states including Egypt and Turkey had
opposed a strong mandate, but failed to seriously restrict the potential
of the post in the face of widespread international support for its

Director of Minority Rights Group International, Mark Lattimer, stated:
'Minorities around the world are abused and discriminated against, yet
minority issues have remained virtually invisible in the UN system. The
establishment of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, together
with the post of UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide
created last year, means that the UN is at last getting serious about
the protection of minority rights.'

MRG points out that minorities comprise an estimated 30-40% of the
world’s population, and that 70% of the world’s conflicts are of an
ethnic or religious nature. However, the UN, since its inception, has
consistently neglected the issue of minorities and currently only a
Working Group on Minorities  is devoted to minority issues. MRG believes
that the WGM continues to fulfil a crucial role as a forum for
representatives of minorities to present their concerns to the UN, and
to engage in dialogue with their government and experts. MRG fully
supports the vital work of this body, which will now sit for a three day
session during the Sub-Commission on Human Rights, and urges full
attention to its work by both states and Sub-Commission Members. 

The new post is created amid a wide-scale review and reform of the UN
system with the goal of delivering results in the fields of human
rights, development and security. MRG believes that significantly
greater attention to the rights of minorities is key to the prevention
of ethnic and religious conflict and essential progress towards the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Notes for editors:

For further information please contact Graham Fox at MRG’s Press Office
+44 (0)20 74224205 or +44 (0) 7870 596863

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental
organization (NGO) working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious,
and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide and to
promote co-operation and understanding between communities.