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All human rights for all


2 - 4 September 1998 Yalta, Ukraine
Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS


"Human Rights for Human Development"

Background Paper

Minorities in a Decentralized Environment

Asbjorn Eide

Norwegian Institute of Human Rights

Chairman of UN Working Group on the Rights of Minorities

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of UNDP/RBEC.

Purpose, issues and contexts

Coping with diversity in the promotion of human rights for all

What:. This paper is intended to facilitate discussions on ways to achieve peaceful and constructive group accommodation in situations involving majorities and minorities, while at the same time promoting universal human rights for all. It builds on the general evolution of international standards regarding human rights and minority rights, and then relate them to the difficulties faced and lessons learned in the process of decentralization in Central and Eastern Europe over the last decade.

Purpose: The paper is intended as a contribution to the search for sustainable human development, with special reference to the topic of this seminar: 'Human Rights: Freedom from Poverty'. Respect for and realization of human rights would undoubtedly contribute to the elimination and prevention of poverty. Poverty is in itself a violation of human rights. It should here be remembered that human rights include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; among these is the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living.

Required: Confidence among the groups. A comprehensive realization throughout the region of human rights including freedom from poverty would involve efforts by the state, the civil society, and the private sector, in co-operation with various parts of the international community. This paper examines only one, albeit very important, part of that question. The realization of the broad range of human rights requires not only good governance, the content of which is discussed in other papers to this conference, but it also requires a positive atmosphere and a reciprocal respect between the different groups living in the national society. Ideally, the state should be seen as an impartial common home for all the groups living there. For well-known reasons, this is sometimes difficult to achieve. Under some circumstances it could be facilitated by optimal forms of decentralization. Whether specific forms of decentralization have this positive impact depends on several factors, which need to be discussed, including the nature of the decentralization process itself.

The normative framework. Efforts to ensure sustainable human development must take place within the normative framework set by the Charter of the United Nations. There are three basic purposes underlying the activities of the United Nations and the world order it seeks to promote: The maintenance of peace, the development of friendly relations between nations, and the development of co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination.

Sovereign equality and territorial integrity. Maintenance of international peace requires respect for and protection of the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states, but the principle of sovereignty has changed considerably in the last decades, and must now be understood within the framework of the obligation to adhere to international standards as set by the Charter, and by further standards set by the United Nations and relevant regional organizations.

Social integration. The management of ethnic and cultural diversity should take place within a policy of social integration. The alternative to social integration is social disintegration or social exclusion of some segments of the population through extreme poverty or through discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race. The Heads of States and Governments participating in the United Nations Social Summit held in Copenhagen in March 1995 strongly committed themselves to social integration, whose aim is to create 'a society for all' in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play. Such a society, they said, must be based on respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural and religious diversity, social justice and the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, democratic participation and the rule of law.

Pluralism required. The Heads of States and Government pointed out that the pluralistic nature of most societies has at times resulted in problems for the different groups to achieve and maintain harmony and cooperation, and to have equal access to all resources in society. (The Social Summit Programme of Action, A/ CONF. 166/9, Chapter IV). This is indeed an understatement. In many places, pluralism has been completely denied through a policy of more or less enforced assimilation to the hegemonic language and culture, or entirely discriminatory forms of pluralism have been pursued by the hegemonic group through discrimination of those who were held to be different. This is therefore the challenge to be faced at the present meeting: How can conditions be established which allow the different groups in society to reproduce and develop their own culture and identity, while at the same time ensure equal access for every individual to democratic participation and to the resources of society, and to equal protection by the rule of law?

Equality for all individuals, but preservation of group identity. Social integration requires that all inhabitants of the state are treated as equals, but it does not require that persons belonging to different groups give up their particular identity. The human rights system envisages that there can be great flexibility and diversity within the national society, though not unlimited separateness.

Integration at different levels. Human beings and human societies can integrate at different levels. Within the traditional state system, the main focus was on national integration at the state level. At present, however, this is undergoing basic changes: There is a process of downward transfer of political power (decentralization) and at the same time an upward transfer, to international regional and global institutions. While the main attention in this paper is to the downward process and its implications for minorities, it must not be left in sight that levels of national and supranational integration continue to exist, and that in particular the supranational dimension is becoming increasingly important, due in large part to the processes of globalization of which we are all parts. An important number of vital decisions are made at the level of international regional or universal organizations, and on the other hand, an increasing number of decisions are adopted at the local level, not the level of the sovereign state.

Decentralization, but how? Decentralization can facilitate the dual aim of integration and the preservation of identity, at least in some circumstance, though not in all. A deeper reflection is therefore required on the modes and conditions of decentralization.

Types of ethnic conflict situations

Causes of tension

Hegemony and non-dominance. One of the main problems is the relation between hegemonic and non-dominant groups in society. Hegemony can be manifested in all aspects of society - politics, culture, security, economy - or in only some of them, particularly in the field of culture and language. It can give rise to discrimination, subordination or outright exclusion and thus be an obstacle to the realization of human rights for all. Several types of conflicts can arise between hegemonic and non-dominant groups. Three will be briefly mentioned here:

One is between a dominant center and a peripheral group living territorially compact, such as the situation of indigenous peoples, including Arctic peoples - the Samis in Northern Scandinavia, the Inuits in Alaska and in Canada, and several smaller peoples in Northern Russia. Their traditional ways of life have been challenged by a dominant center which has exploited the resource base of these vulnerable group and in the process also nearly destroyed the capacity of the peripheral group to reproduce and to develop its own culture, including language and religion. In defense, such groups have in recent decades mobilized in resistance and sought international support for their right to have a separate identity and a degree of self-government within which they can reproduce their culture and preserve and consolidate their resource base. For those of them who still live compactly together, decentralization through devolution of power to administrate their own resources can be of great usefulness in their ability to reproduce and develop their culture.

A second category of situations arise as a result of systemic discriminations of persons because of their colour or race, such as the Romas in several countries in Europe. Somewhat similar problems confront immigrants or stateless persons whose language, ethnic culture or religion differs from the dominant inhabitants of the state and who are often subject to discrimination. These groups usually do not live compactly together but are dispersed throughout society, though they are often more concentrated in the more depressed parts of cities than in the rural areas. Decentralization is less likely to help them; in fact, they may be better helped by an active role by the central government in protecting them from discrimination. Their primary struggle is for equal enjoyment of civil, political, economic and social rights including citizenship and thereby fall political rights.

A third category are conflicts involving ethno-nationalists who either seek to achieve a hegemonic position for their group in a heterogeneous national society or to secede from it. Dominating the national society would consist in assimilating the non-dominant parts of the population into the culture and language of the dominant ethno-national group, or exclude members of other ethnic groups from the national society, either by denial or deprivation of citizenship, or by outright ethnic cleansing. The alternative strategy for ethno-nationalists who are unable to dominate the national society is to secede from it, by establishing an independent state which their ethnic group can dominate, or by redrawing borders to become part of another state dominated by their own ethnic group. This situation is likely to arise mainly when a given ethnic group lives compactly together in a substantial part of the state territory and there form a majority. Decentralization through extensive devolution of power or territorial autonomy may be a useful devise to satisfy much of their concerns, without going all the way to secession. One main obstacle might be the danger of reverse discrimination against persons belonging to the statewide majority who would form minorities in the autonomous area.

The three categories (and others can be mentioned) indicate that there is a need for checks and balances in the architecture of decentralized government. Ideally, the central government should retain a role as impartial arbiter ensuring equal enjoyment of human rights for all throughout the state, but without favouring unduly any particular culture or language. Combinations can occur between these different types of conflicts .

The state-nation and the ethno-nations

Semantically, the word 'nation' is used in several meanings. In the English language, 'inter-national law means the law between states. The classical function of this law is to regulate relations between states, not between ethnic nations. Some non-legal usages of the word 'nation' in historical, sociological, cultural or anthropological discourse carry the meaning of 'ethno- nation'. The content of the word 'nationalism' changes substantially when we move from 'state- nation' to 'ethno-nation'.

The 'state-nation' is the sum total of the persons living permanently within the borders of the territory of a state, or at least those who are citizens of that state and live there. In many states, the nation in this sense is multicultural, different languages are sometimes spoken by different members of society; different cultural traditions and/ or religious communities may be found there; that does not affect their membership in the same state-nation. But the government and the influential parts of the political elite in state-nations seek to pursue what is sometimes referred to as 'nation-building', a process of integration into the state-nation. This can be done in different ways. It does not necessarily mean 'assimilation', since nation-building can be harmonized with the preservation of the different ethnic and cultural identities of the different groups within the national society. Unfortunately, however, the dominant elites in some state-nations refuse to recognize its pluralistic composition, and deny non-dominant linguistic or ethnic groups the right to preserve and develop their own culture and language.

As pointed out above, some degree of integration is necessary if society shall at all be able to function and the state be able to maintain law and order within the society as a whole. The alternative to social integration is social exclusion. But social integration does not necessarily require cultural integration in all respects - great diversity can coexist with a community in terms of law and order, as evidenced by such states as Switzerland.

'Ethno-nations' give rise to a different set of political and legal problems. One version of ethno-nationalist ideology is the following: Nations are to be defined in ethnic terms, referring to a common past history, tradition, preferably also common language. Secondly, ethnic nations should have their own states, so the society composing a state should as far as possible be congruent with the "nation". Thirdly, the loyalty of members to their ethnic nation should override all other loyalties. The origin of this notion is often traced to the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder in Germany at the end of the eighteenth century, subsequently taken over also by Slavic and other peoples in Central and Eastern Europe. The emotions already generated by the notions of ethno-nationalism were an important factor in the particular theory of nationalism developed by Lenin and Stalin when they developed their theory of nationalism prior to the Russian revolution, but in their application they were convinced that the ethno-national identities which they encouraged would be of only temporary duration, and that they would be dissolved in the processes of economic development of the larger society.

Irredentism and secessionism

Where ethno-nationalist movements emerge, it reflects uncase and an unstable situation. It indicates either that the social contract among the members of the hegemonic group's) has not been extended to all members of society, or that some ethnic groups refuse to be part of a statewide social contract, even if allowed to do so on an egalitarian basis. It can give rise to irredentism or secessionism or both. It can therefore generate serious conflicts in violation of United Nations principles, which place a heavy emphasis on territorial integrity and the sanctity of borders.

The danger of irredentism arises when a hegemonic group in state A wants to extend its control to territories in state B inhabited by the same ethnic group as themselves. The danger of secessionism is particularly great when members of an ethnic group, defining itself as a "nation" or part of a nation different from the majority in the state, live compactly together as a majority in a region inside that state.

Ethno-nationalism and civic nationalism

Ethno-nationalism has been contrasted with civic nationalism, which holds that everybody living within the state should be part of the nation on a basis of equality, irrespective of his or her ethnic background. This notion follows from the evolution of the concept of 'State-nation', via the notion of 'citizen nation' to the 'civic nation'. It goes beyond 'citizen nation' in that it also includes the permanent residents as part of the civic nation, even before they obtain citizenship.

Inclusive civic nationalism and the preservation of identity

Civic nationalism can be reconciled with the maintenance of conditions for those who so wish to have and to assert their double identity and loyalty: They can be nationals within the civic nation, territorially defined, and as such expect to be treated as equals without any discrimination, and at the same time they can be members of an ethnic, linguistic or religious group. To achieve this balance, the territorial nationalism must have a strong "civic" and participatory character, balancing ethnic membership with national citizenship in a polyethnic or multinational state. Out of the state-based territorial identity a political community must be evolved with a common legal code and civic culture. It probably takes a long democratic evolution to achieve a stable situation of this content.

Applicable international standards

A consequence of the increasing interdependence between states is that governments at all levels have to take into account international expectations and international standards. The members of the international community have a strong interest in preventing refugee flows and to promote stability. There is also a widespread reciprocal benefit to be gained from uninterrupted, sustainable development; conflicts in one place are therefore negative to others. More generally, the process of globalization of the market reinforces the need for a universalization of standards.

The framework for international standards is set by the United Nations Charter with its threefold set of purposes mentioned in Part I. One of these purposes is to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character (i.e sustainable human development) and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Human rights as guide to group accommodation

The greatest achievement within the contemporary international legal order is the adoption and the advancing implementation of universal human rights. Group accommodation must be guided by its conformity to the requirements of human rights law. The contemporary, normative system of human rights is built on three elements:

The foundation of all human rights is found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 1:

'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood'.

Under the Universal Declaration itself, article 2, paragraph 1, everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The theme of equality occurs time and again, and is spelled out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights articles 2 and 26, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights article 2, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms article 14, the Inter-American Convention article 1, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights article 2.

Within national societies, different cultures co-exist - in the form of different religions, different languages, and different ethnies. This cultural co-existence is not only an unavoidable aspect of contemporary life but should also be seen as enrichment. It can, however, easily generate discriminations in the form of exclusions, restrictions or preference. The main thrust of. modern human rights is to counteract such tendencies. For that to happen, everybody involved have to understand that while they adhere to separate linguistic traditions, have different national origins, or subscribe to different religions, they are all equal in dignity and rights and should act towards each other in a spirit of fraternity.

The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and the two Covenants adopted in 1966 - the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Numerous other conventions have since been added to these both at the global and the regional level, and all states in the region meeting here have subscribed to these instruments by ratification, accession or succession.

These instruments cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Over the years, further and more detailed provisions have been adopted in such fields as prevention of discrimination; the rights of women; the rights of the child; prevention of slavery, servitude and forced labour; human rights and the administration of justice; freedom of information; freedom of association; equality and non-discrimination in employment; human rights related to marriage, family and youth; social welfare, progress and development; the right to enjoy culture; human rights related to nationality, statelessness and asylum; prevention, prohibition and punishment of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, and humanitarian law in armed conflict. Were these rights safeguarded, peaceful group accommodation would be greatly facilitated.

Group conflicts arise when members atone or the other group do not accept the equality in dignity or rights of the members of other groups. One of the main instruments in international human rights law to counteract challenges to the equality of human beings is the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The two objectives of ICERD are to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to promote understanding among all races (article 2, para. 1). "Racial discrimination" is in article I defined as distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

The prohibited 'racial discrimination" therefore explicitly also includes discrimination in the basis of national or ethnic origin.

The aim is not only to achieve equality de jure, but also de facto. ICERD furthermore requires that special but transitional measures shall be taken in regard to racial or ethnic groups when this is required in order to guarantee to them full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

According to ICERD article 4(a), State Parties have assumed the obligation of declaring "an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin". Under ICERD article 4(b), States Parties shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and mete racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law. Furthermore, States are obliged to take steps to promote inter-ethnic understanding, tolerance and friendship (ICERD Article 7).

Minority rights and group accommodation

Human rights are essentially individualistic. They deal with the rights of the human person as an individual. Many persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic groups feel, however, that they need a protection of their group identity. The core elements of that identity is the right to organize themselves as a group, to use their o m language, to be able to preserve, to reproduce and to develop their own culture, and therefore to control or have a significant impact on the content of the education of their new generations. A part of this concern is to be able effectively to influence political decisions affecting themselves.

There has in recent decades been a slow, but necessary process to find the appropriate balance between the legitimate concerns of the state and those of the minorities. Three guiding principles for that balancing act has been the following:

On the basis of that Declaration the contemporary international human rights system has been built. It consists of a set of instruments, which proclaim individual human rights, though many of them are meaningful only or mainly when exercised in association with others. Since everyone is entitled to enjoy universal human rights without distinction being made on grounds of their race, language, or their ethnic, religious or national origin, members of minorities, as well as majorities, are entitled to enjoy all ordinary human rights, both in relation to the state and in relation to the organizations set up by minorities.

In order for members of minorities to develop their own culture and to participate effectively in the social, economic, cultural and political life of the larger society, their right to fall freedom of association combined with the freedom of expression and information are of particular importance.

Relevant for minorities and group accommodation are, for instance, the provisions which oblige states to respect freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Universal Declaration Article 18). Members of any religious group are entitled to manifest, in public as well as in private, their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Equally relevant is the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Universal Declaration Article 19), which includes the right also to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. This right clearly includes the right to use one's own mother tongue and to receive and to give information in that language; on this basis minor groups can assert their right to protect their own language. Also of relevance is the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Universal Declaration article 20): Minor groups are entitled to organize for the promotion of their interests and values by forming their own associations. Furthermore, everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of the community (Universal Declaration Article 27). This implies, also, that members of minority groups can carry on their particular group culture.

In 1990, a Human Dimension Meeting of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (now called the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE) was held in Copenhagen. Its Final Document contain what until then was the most advanced set of provisions on the rights of minorities and on peaceful accommodation between groups. The Copenhagen Document inspired subsequent developments both in the Council of Europe and in the United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1992 the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities, which is now the most important instrument at the global level. Two years later, the Council of Europe adopted its Framework Convention on the Rights of National Minorities, which further elaborates rights of minorities. Since the latter still has only a small number of ratifications, the focus in this paper is on the content of the United Nations. Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to national or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities of 1992.

The UN Minority Declaration of 1992 expresses in its preamble the conviction that the promotion and protection of rights of minorities contribute to the stability of states, and that this also contributes to the strengthening of friendship and co-operation among states.

The protection of minorities is based on four principles: Non-exclusion, non-assimilation, non-discrimination and social integration.

To secure the implementation of these principles, the Declaration addresses several requirements to states.

The first requirement is to protect the existence of minorities. This includes their physical existence, their continued existence on the territories on which the minorities live, and the continued access to the material resources required to continue their existence on those territories. They shall neither be physically excluded from the territory nor be excluded from access to the resources required for their livelihood. The right to existence in its physical sense is sustained by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which codified customary law in 1948. Forced population transfers intended or with the effect to move members of minorities away from the territory on which they live would constitute serious breaches of contemporary international standards.

The second requirement is to protect the identity of the groups concerned. Many recent international instruments use the term 'identity', which expresses a clear trend towards the protection and promotion of cultural diversity both internationally and-internally to states. Relevant provisions are Articles 29 and 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31 of the UN Migrant Workers Convention, Article 2(2)(b) of ILO Convention No. 169, which refers to respect for the social and cultural identity, customs and traditions and institutions of indigenous peoples, as well as in regional instruments such as the OSCE 1990 Copenhagen Human Dimension Conference and the European Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities of 1994, and the Geneva Meeting of Experts on National Minorities 1991.

Identity is essentially cultural, and requires not only tolerance but also a positive attitude of cultural pluralism by the state and the larger society. Required are not only acceptance but also respect for the distinctive characteristics and contribution of minorities in the life of the national society as a whole. Protection of the identity means not only that the state shall abstain from policies, which have the purpose or effect of assimilating the minorities into the dominant culture, but also that it shall protect them against activities by third parties which have assimilatory effect. Crucial in these regards are the language policies and the educational policies of the state concerned. Denying minorities the possibility to learn their own language, or excluding from the education of minorities transmission of the knowledge of their own culture, history, tradition and language, would be a violation of the obligation to protect their identity.

It is, however, also necessary to sound a warning here in light of developments which took place in some parts of former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union. Protection of the identity of the different groups in society is intended to enrich the society as a whole. There has, however, in some places been a violently regressive development, away from a positive to a negative identity. For some, cultural identity has become an obsession not to share and compromise, but to erase, exclude and if necessary kill the other - and even to destroy the cultural symbols of the other groups. The burning of old libraries, the destruction of the ancient bridge in Mostar, the demolition of mosques, churches and synagogues, are efforts to destroy the common heritage of the population in the area, seeking to introduce retroactively an artificial mono-cultural identity by erasing even the symbols of the historical existence of others.

The third requirement is to encourage conditions for the promotion of their identity. This goes beyond mere protection, and requires special measures intended to facilitate the maintenance, reproduction and further development of the culture of the minorities. Cultures are not static, but minorities should be given the opportunity to develop their own culture in the context of an ongoing process. It should be an interaction between the members of the minority themselves, between the minority and the state, and between the minority and the wider national society.

The Declaration requires states to adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends.

Persons belonging to minorities have the right to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life and to participate effectively in decisions on the national and regional level concerning the minority to which they belong or the regions in which they live.

This can take many forms, such as

Persons belonging to minorities also have the right to establish and maintain contacts across frontiers with citizens of other states to whom they are related by national or ethnic, religious or linguistic ties.

The state must under all circumstances respect and protect the existence of the group, abstain from any discrimination directed against its members and protect them from discrimination, and ensure that they retain their necessary sources of livelihood. States are also obliged to create favourable conditions which enable persons belonging to minorities to develop the culture, language, religion, traditions and customs, except where specific practices are in violation of national law and contrary to international standards.

Furthermore, states should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instructions in their mother tongue. In addition, measures should be taken in the field of education, in order to encourage knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of the minorities existing within their territory. Consequently, persons belonging to minorities should have adequate opportunities to gain knowledge of the society as a whole. The Declaration therefore, in its Article 4, calls for intercultural education by the encouragement of knowledge in the society as a whole of the history, tradition and culture of the minorities living there, presented in a positive way in order to encourage tolerance and respect. That minorities should obtain knowledge of the society as a whole is intended to counteract tendencies towards fundamentalist or closed religious or ethnic groups, which can be as much affected by xenophobia and intolerance as the majorities. The overall purpose is therefore to ensure integration, but on a basis of respect for each of the cultural, linguistic or religious groups which together form the national society. The formation of ghettos, of minority groups, which live only in their own world without knowledge of or tolerance for the members of the larger society, would be a violation of the purpose and spirit of the Declaration.

The Declaration requires states to take measures so that persons belonging to minorities may participate fully in the economic progress and development in their country. National policies and programmes shall be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities, and programmes of cooperation and assistance among States should be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities.

Summary: The inter-related requirements of constructive accommodation

Group accommodation between majorities and minorities must be based on respect for the overriding principles of universal human rights, in particular the principle of non-discrimination and equality in the common domain. While ensuring equality and non-discrimination, measures should be taken to allow for pluralism in togetherness by protecting the existence and promoting conditions for the preservation and development of separate group identities, provided it is done in an open and flexible way which makes it possible for every individual to decide what identity to hold.

Arrangements for pluralism in togetherness are not always sufficient or fully appropriate to achieve peaceful group accommodation. When the different ethnic groups live in separate territorial localities within the state and a great cultural distance exists between the groups, a degree of territorial sub-division of state power can facilitate effective pluralism and confidence- building without destroying the territorial integrity and the essence of political unity of the sovereign state. Decentralization can under some circumstances be the best approach to pluralism, sometimes in the form of autonomy, cultural or territorial.

But territorial subdivision is not without problems. It can spill over into a process of separation and generate serious stress in the national society, giving rise also to ethnic cleansing and massive violations, sometimes even attracting foreign intervention and causing serious risks to regional security. To find the appropriate territorial solution constitutes one of the most difficult balancing acts in situations of ethnic conflict. It can also cut across the interests of different elements within a given ethnic group: Not infrequently, one part of an ethnic group lives compactly together in a region of the state, while great numbers of the same ethnic group live dispersed in the territory as a whole, particularly in the central urban and industrialized areas, and are more or less satisfactorily integrated with the majority of the population. Many have intermarried, and their children have a dual identity which they would like to maintain. Many members of the ethnic minority have obtained jobs and in the larger society. For them, ethnic separation could be a disaster, unless it was achieved in the form of a soft and negotiated autonomy, which allowed for participation in the society at large without recrimination. Some of the benefits and problems will be further discussed below; first some words about the concept and its various possible contents.

The legacy of the past and the processes of transition

The legacies

Throughout the region of Central and Eastern Europe including the former Soviet Union, the legacy of the past affects the nature of the transition processes now taking place. This requires some attention both to the nature of that legacy, and to the ongoing transition processes.

The age of Communist rule had a number of systemic features common to most of the countries involved. These features are well known to the participants here and therefore will only be briefly touched on as a background to the subsequent discussion. The main, common feature was the so-called 'democratic centralism'; the political counterpart to the system of centrally planned economy.

The 'democratic centralism' was a brainchild of Lenin, which he invented at the beginning of this century, and was closely connected to his theory of the party as the "vanguard of the proletariat." The vanguard was in his view to be a highly disciplined, centralized party that would work unremittingly to suffuse the proletariat with Socialist consciousness and serve as mentor, leader, and guide, constantly showing the proletariat where its true class interests lie. The party he envisaged was to be guided by "democratic centralism," requiring absolute party discipline. According to Lenin the party had to be a highly centralized body organized around a small, ideologically homogeneous, hardened core of experienced professional revolutionaries, who would be elected to the central committee by the party congress and who would lead a hierarchy of lower party organizations that would enjoy the support and sympathy of the proletariat.

The Soviet Union also developed a system of integrated city government, initially based on elections at the local level and indirect election by those local bodies of representatives to the councils, or Soviets, at higher levels. Later, direct election was introduced. Due, however, to the principle of "democratic centralism " administered by the central leadership of the Party, each local authority was responsible to and had to carry out the directions of the corresponding organ at the next higher level of government. While policies sometimes could originate at the local level, they had to be approved by the higher soviet before they were implemented. It was therefore a rigid, hierarchical and ranked structure, and every soviet was a local organ of the state.

In terms of federal structure, however, the USSR and the former Yugoslav federation had some very special features. They suffered from a severe ambiguity that in the end was fatal and has had serious after-effects. On the one hand, they were based on a sophisticated system of regionalization based on nationality and ethnicity. In the USSR, different ethnic groups (nations or nationalities) were given status by being titular nationals of union republics, or autonomous republics, krais and okrugs. The Union republics had, nominally, a right to self-determination, and the autonomous republics and sub-units appeared to have considerable autonomy. A somewhat similar approach was used in former Yugoslavia. In reality, power remained within the centralized Communist party. The territorial division was not filled with democratic content but with status allocations. An elaborate arrangement involving selected representatives of the titular nationalities in the bureaucracies, the nomenklatura, gave the impression of ethnic and national power, which was fictitious.

It did, however, give rise to the notion that the separate republics or autonomies "belonged" to the titular ethnic group, a conception which turned out to have serious negative consequences when the federations fell apart. Instead of perceiving each of the union republics as a framework within which to build an inclusive democracy, involving all inhabitants residing there on an equal level, it has led to an exceptionally strong process of ethnic identification in many of the republics and the sub-units, with the corresponding quests for secession by those ethnic groups which did not belong to the dominant ethnos.

The combination of 'democratic centralism' and state control of the economy gave the Soviet system of governance its peculiar character, affecting government, the almost non-existent private sector, and the weak and vulnerable civil society. Most of the people-withdrew into a kind of private quietism. Associations other than those set up by the government did not exist or consisted only of small circles of relatives and close friends. The public realm was dominated by the communist party-state and its enforced conformities. To take initiatives were filled with risks.

Another legacy left behind by the Communist period is now manifesting itself as the effect of very extensive population movements. Some resulted from the operations of the planned economy, since large enterprises were placed in different parts of the far-flung Soviet territory and workers moved there from the different union republics without much attention to the ethno- nationalist principles on which the Soviet Union nominally was built. Others resulted from the large-scale deportations during the reign of Stalin, by which whole ethnic groups were moved to regions inhabited by different titular nationalities. A third was the extensive occurrence of intermarriages arising from these extensive ethnic migrations; large numbers of children and now grandchildren can only with difficulty can be assigned to one or the of the titular nationalities.

Many aspects of the Soviet system were replicated in other countries of Central and Eastern Europe after World War II and particularly after 1948-1949. The features of an ethnically based federal structure combined with a centrally controlled governing party were replicated mainly in former Yugoslavia.

Visions and basic approaches during the transition

The legacies described above have deeply affected the post-1990 transition processes. The transition has been from the command economy to privatization and market operation and from a centrally controlled single party to political pluralism.

A process of transition is driven by visions held by some and affected by fears and resistance of others. While there has been a broadly shared concern to move away from the centralized, one-party authoritarian rule, the more specific motivations and expectations have varied greatly. Trade unions wanted more autonomy, private entrepreneurs wanted more space, the organizations of civil society wanted more political and cultural freedom, many politicians wanted more pluralism, and almost all wanted less bureaucracy and improvement in material conditions measured by standards enjoyed in the West.

In situations of political competition in new-democracies, politicians seek to mobilize on grounds, which have a wide appeal. Many political leaders have chosen to mobilize on national or ethnic grounds, with significant consequences for the developments, which since took place. In so doing, they set for themselves two tasks: (1) to emphasize the collective identity of the group to which they appealed, and (2) to portray the group to have a unique difference from other such collectivities.

Many have resorted to the ideology of ethno-nationalism, as described in Part I of this paper. This is an ideology of a collectivist nature and can be in direct conflict with the notions of individual human rights. The ideology emphasizes collective 'rights' claimed to be based on shared kinship, shared language, shared 'culture' and strong 'shared destiny'. The collectivity is claimed to encompass the whole group, both men and women, old and young, the rich and the poor, the rural and the urban, the highly educated and those who are not. They emphasize the communal identity of the group.

Such approaches run counter to other visions, such as the desire to bring about rapid modernization in society through advanced education, technological transformation, and the building of a common and reliable system of law and order. Conflicts between adherents of different policies and visions could easily be resolved in a well functioning democracy, guided by respect for human rights, which would make it possible to negotiate the reciprocal arrangements for preservation of cultural diversity while respecting equality in the common domain. But a mature democracy takes a long time to develop. It is in the transition time that the risk of severe conflicts is the greatest, as vividly shown during the last decade.

Different ways to legitimize the exercise of power has come to the fore. The Communist rule through the party as the vanguard of the proletariat projected the labour class as the source of legitimacy. Having now been dismantled, the competing sources of legitimacy are reason, identity or faith. Another set of words corresponding to these categories would be democracy, ethnocracy and theocracy.

Government by reason conforms to the notion of human rights and popular sovereignty, the assumption that the authority of the government should be based on the will people as a whole, meaning everyone permanently living in the territory irrespective of their class, ethnic or national identity or religion. Democracy therefore means a process of negotiation and compromises to accommodate the different groups, but based on respect for equal enjoyment of human rights of every member of the statewide national society. Government by identity corresponds to the ethno-nationalist notion that every ethnic nation should have its own government whose main task should be to protect and promote the values and identity of that ethnic nation. Government by faith would mean that government should be the implementation of the tenets of the religion, its commandments and scriptures, as interpreted by the clerics.

Democracy is conceived as rational government optimally meeting the needs of all its residents as a result of their free and active participation. At its base are the efforts of all residents to solve their own problems and contribute to the common well-being of all inhabitants. The guidelines for rational government are spelled out in the international human rights system. Human rights recognize freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, but not as a basis of power over others.

Rational democracy is difficult to ensure, however, in periods with great insecurity and uncertainty about the future. Its particular weakness under such circumstances is that it may not be able to ensure to the different groups the preservation of their cultural identity, with all the symbols that to them give sense and direction in life. The problem may be particularly acute in the relation between the urban and the rural population. In larger cities, there has already been a process of interaction between different cultures and a degree of adaptation to each other, but in many rural areas and smaller towns each ethnic group still often live compactly together and are guided by their traditions and symbols. When the coercive capacity of the Communist system disappeared, it was tempting for some political leaders to mobilize on these ethnic grounds, to incite their sense of insecurity and in the process generate conflicts which were later difficult to contain. I have in other contexts termed these politicians 'ethnic conflict entrepreneurs', who used ethno-politics in their competition for government power. In their more negative versions, ethno- politics is exclusionary in that it seeks to reject 'the other', those who do not belong to the same group. Ethno-politics is also distrustful of liberal democracy, pluralism and social tolerance. Ethno-politics lead also to narrowly drawn rules for the provision of citizenship in new or restored states.

The transition has been affected also by the expectations and demands of the international community. The development of a market orientation has brought the region fully into present trends of globalization, with its positive as well as negative consequences. Demands are made for structural adjustments, articulated by the IMP and the World Bank, to satisfy the needs of the international market and the actual or potential investors. The states in the region are also faced with the demands by the regional and the global organizations - the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations. Among these demands is the requirement to elaborate a system of the rule of law, which in turn requires democratic governance, impartial and independent courts, and the respect for the human rights of every individual without discrimination on any ground, thus also prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of ethnic or national origin or religion as well as on gender.

The UNDP seeks to contribute through positive assistance to promote a strong but democratic state, which is ready to tackle poverty and to strengthen the role of women in society. What needs to be clarified is the role to be played in regard to group accommodation and minority protection.

While it is easy from a Western tradition of liberal democracy and human rights to criticize ethno-politics, the underlying fears and insecurities should be taken into account and appropriate devices should be developed to ensure that the dignity and identity of the different groups are respected within the framework of an inclusive democracy.

In the process, however, the question of territorial dissolution or decentralization has proved to be the most difficult issue, in several places leading to severe armed conflict with massive brutality displayed. The overgrown state has had to be built down; public functions have had to be moved from the centralized state apparatus to local governments. It has been observed that real decentralization involves the devolution of both responsibilities and resources to relatively independent and autonomous local authorities whose accountability should primarily be to the members of the local community they serve, and less to the central national leadership. This, however, carries its own problems, such as the dangers of discrimination at the local level on ethnic or religious grounds. These issues are examined at greater detail in part IV of this paper.

Main elements of a framework for constructive group accommodation: Confidence-building, effective participation, and decentralization

Ideally, the state should function as the common home for all parts of its resident population under conditions of equality, with preservation of separate group identities for those who want it. A primary role of any state is to facilitate the equitable sharing of the economic wealth and social benefits of the nation as a whole. States and civil society should jointly encourage social integration and prevent exclusion. Integration should not lead to enforced assimilation of minorities to the culture and language of the hegemonic group. Rather, it should be based on the cultures and values contributed by all groups.


It is essential to pursue policies of confidence building between the groups in society. International human rights contain several provisions to this effect; in addition, lessons can be learned from a comparative study of good practices.

Education for multiculturalism and interculturalism.

In order to prevent ethnic or religious hatred and intolerance, states should in their educational policies take measures to ensure that childhood and adult education is line with international requirements. These are found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 26.2, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination article 7, and most fully developed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child article 29 (1) (b) (c) and (d). That convention is binding on all states in the region.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 29 states have agreed on the purposes or aims of the education of the child. It shall be directed not only to the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential, but also to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. The education shall develop respect for the child's parents and the child's own cultural identity, language and values, as well as for the national values of the country in which the child is living, of the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own. The education shall also prepare the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin. Finally, the education shall develop respect by the child for the natural environment.

This is a comprehensive agenda to which 191 states so far have committed themselves, including all here represented. If it is taken seriously, it will contribute significantly to the prevention of such conflicts as those that have bedeviled the transition processes in some parts of the region.

Prevention of ethnic and racial hatred

Group conflicts often give rise to propaganda and to the emergence of organizations attempting to justify discrimination on notions of racial superiority or the incompatibility of cultures. States should therefore take all necessary steps to prevent or stop racial and ethnic hatred. The guideline here is found in Article 4 of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. States Parties to that convention have committed themselves to prohibit dissemination of ideas based on superiority or hatred, incitement of racial and ethnic hatred, as well as all acts of violence or incitement of such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin, and to prohibit racist organizations.

States should take all necessary steps to ensure that perpetrators of acts of ethnic and religious violence are quickly apprehended and prosecuted under conditions affair trial. Impunity for instigators and perpetrators of group violence, whether members of majorities or minorities, lead to an escalation of the conflict.

In situations of extreme instability, however, the state is sometimes unable to apprehend the perpetrators. The international community therefore has a supplementary role. They should prohibit citizens of their own states from participating in violent group conflicts inside other states or incite violence there, should effectively prosecute those who violate such prohibitions. There is now also the possibility that in some feature serious violations of this kind will be prosecuted before the new International Criminal Court, established by a treaty adopted in Rome in July 1998.

Ensure civil rights for all

The civil rights of members of minorities, as of majorities, should be given full and equal protection. Visible, impartial and effective implementation of national legislation in this field should be ensured to all. Adequate training should be given to law enforcement officials and others who deal directly with the public.

Equality in the enjoyment of economic and social right

Members of different groups should enjoy economic and social rights on a basis of equality. Where members of particular minorities are in a weaker economic position than member of majorities, affirmative action should be taken on a temporary basis to redress the inequality. For this purpose, specific policies should be formulated in cooperation with members of vulnerable groups to achieve equality of opportunity and access.

There should in each country be an ongoing, systematic monitoring of the situation of vulnerable groups. This should be done through periodic sampling and collection of statistical information disaggregated by racial or ethnic groups. Use should be made of indicators such as infant mortality rates, life expectancy, literacy, level of educational attainment and average disposable income.

Members of the different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups should on a basis of equality participate in, contribute to and benefit from the right to development. Consequently, development policies should be conducted in ways that decreases the disparities between different groups. Groups living compactly together should always be fully consulted with regard to development projects affecting the regions in which they live.

Recourse and conciliation machinery

Everyone, including members of minorities, should be ensured an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating their rights. Normal legal procedures are often slow and costly and not always suitable for conflict resolution. States that have not yet done so should establish mechanisms such as an ombudsman against ethnic discrimination, commissions on racial and ethnic reconciliation, or human rights committees that are given as one of their tasks to ensure equality and conditions for the promotion of separate identity.

Ensuring effective political participation

Members of all groups, whether they form majorities or minorities, must have opportunities of effective participation in political organs of society, but it must be done in ways that avoid obstruction of necessary decision-making. No single formula exists which is appropriate to all minority situations. The basic requirement is that everyone shall have the right and opportunity, without discrimination, to take part in the conduct of public affairs. To avoid that this leads to neglect by the majority of the values and interests minorities, or to a veto paralyzing by minorities, some states have set up

Facilitating cultural pluralism:

Education, language and culture

The right of persons belonging to national minorities to maintain their identity can only be fully realized if they acquire a proper knowledge of their mother tongue during the educational process. At the same time, persons belonging to national minorities have a responsibility to integrate into the wider national society through the acquisition of a proper knowledge of the State language. The two parameters have to be reconciled: on the one hand, preserving identity, and on the other hand, integrating - while keeping one's identity as part of the luggage to integrate into the overall national society.

In issues relating to group accommodation we distinguish between three major concerns: The primordial, the instrumental and the social. The primordial concern is to create and maintain conditions by which a person can preserve and develop her or his original identity whenever wanted, and the maintenance of the mother tongue is among the most important requirements in that regard. The instrumental concern is to ensure that the person has the skills and the capacity to cope in the market - be it the job market or elsewhere. This will in most cases make it important that the person manages also the official or state language of the national society as a whole. The social concern emerges from the needs of the state to regulate the many complex aspects of interaction in society, and therefore be able to communicate through laws and administrative regulations to everyone living in that society. This will often require the use of one common language which is understood by all.

States should create conditions enabling representative institutions of national minorities to participate meaningfully in the development and implementation of policies and programmes related to minority education.

States should endow regional and local authorities with appropriate competencies concerning minority education thereby also facilitating the participation of minorities in the process of policy formulation at a regional and/or local level.

States should adopt measures to encourage parental involvement and choice in the educational system at a local level, including in the field of minority language education.

The option of cultural autonomy

The suggestions made above would be facilitated if provisions were made for comprehensive cultural autonomy. Non-territorial cultural autonomy would often be a better approach than territorial autonomy. Firstly, it serves better those minorities which are living dispersed throughout the country and would therefore not benefit from territorial autonomy; secondly, it can reconcile the need for the maintenance of inherited territorial borders within which several ethnic groups live together, while ensuring for each of them the possibility to maintain their own identity through self-management.

Cultural autonomy is the right to self-rule, by a culturally defined group, in matters that affect the maintenance and reproduction of its culture. It differs from territorial autonomy in at least three ways: The management is allocated to a culturally rather than a territorially defined group; the scope of self-management is limited to cultural aspects; cultural authority can be exercised only over those individuals who 'belong' to that cultural group.

The most well-known case in past history was the law of cultural autonomy adopted by Estonia in 1925. Under it, cultural minorities of a given minimum size were given the right to establish their own schools and cultural institutions, governed by elected councils with legislative and taxing powers. The jurisdiction of these cultural councils was defined in terms of membership in a cultural community regardless of geographical residence. The Russian and Swedish minorities did not set up such cultural councils, mainly because they were geographically concentrated and could therefore use local self-government Institutions. However, the more scattered German and Jewish minorities did make use of the opportunities of the new law, and their cultural councils proved successful.

Constitutional and statutory laws on cultural autonomy have in recent years been adopted in a number of countries. Estonia has adopted a new law on cultural autonomy for national minorities (26 October 1993), Slovenia a law on self-managing ethnic communities (5 October 1994), Croatia a constitutional law of human rights and freedoms and the rights of national and ethnic communities or minorities m the Republic of Croatia (December 4,1991), and the Russian Federation a law on national-cultural autonomy (25 June 1996). Mentioned could also be the Hungarian law on the rights of national and ethnic minorities of 7 July 1993, which allows for considerable territorial and cultural autonomy but without using that terminology and without fully conforming to the definition of cultural autonomy.

Territorial decentralisation

In the processes of transition since 1945, new models of federalism, autonomy and local government have been tried. Some words on these may be required. They all have in common a degree of autonomy for a sub-unit within a sovereign state.

'Autonomy' is here understood to refer to the competence by sub-state units to make autonomous decisions. The two main ways to define sub-state units are the territorial versus the cultural mode. Both serve to set borders between the units; one is territorial, the other is cultural. The territorial sets borders on the ground; cultural borders are essentially set in the minds of people.

A federal system is constitutionally regulated and provides the same degree of autonomy to each of the units in the federation. A constitutionally regulated provincial autonomy provides a differentiated arrangement where some provinces have more autonomy than others, as in the case of Spain. It could also be arrangements where only one or two autonomies exist while the rest of the state is unitary, as is the case with Finland and the Aaland Islands. Administrative decentralization provides only for administrative, not legislative self-management.

In terms of the formal rules and institutions, some of the following issues could be asked:

(i) the nature of the transfer of power. Is it based on constitutionally entrenched or delegated power? In the former case it cannot be withdrawn except through constitutional change or through the qualified procedural requirements contained in the constitution; in the case of delegated power, the delegation can be withdrawn or modified by the delegating authority. When autonomy is based on international treaty obligations it cannot be withdrawn unless the treaty itself is changed or terminated.

(ii) What institutions of authority have been established within the autonomous area? The self-government of a fully autonomous area should include legislative, executive, and judicial authorities. This appears to be rare, however. While legislative and executive power is often transferred, the judicial system is, within sovereign states, normally not transferred. While local courts are established, sometimes of a special nature appropriate to the particular cultural aspects of the territory concerned, they are normally subordinated to a judicial hierarchy with the national Supreme Court at the top.

(iii) What is the scope of authority transferred within each of the branches of self-government? This varies greatly within different autonomies. The scope is not always fixed once and for all, but based on a formula of gradual increase in the transfer of power. This is used, i.a., in the case of Greenland, or the autonomies in Spain. When there is a reasonable level of confidence among the parties, this appears to be the best solution: There is a need for capacity-building within the autonomous area; the local authorities must be certain to have the resources required in order to exercise the authority intended, and the local population may need to develop their experience in making claims on and holding their own authorities accountable.

It may be more difficult to opt for such a solution if the parties are deeply antagonistic to each other, particularly when emerging out of a violent armed conflict. In such cases, the would-be autonomous area may want to have agreement on a full package before they end hostilities.

(iv) Do all nationals (citizens of the country as a whole) enjoy equal human rights in all parts of the country, or do the inhabitants of the region have privileges within the autonomous region, while having equal rights in society at large? Human rights, such as the right to freedom of movement and residence contained in the Universal Declaration Article 13, can be negatively affected by certain autonomy arrangements which establish privileges for members of the autonomous group.

The democratic functions of territorial subdivision

Territorial sub-division may be organized in ways that make it possible for a compactly settled minority to have greater influence over political, cultural and economic decisions affecting its members. However, it should not serve to give ethnic groups the sense that the local government is exclusively their government. The sub-division should only serve to bring the institutions of power and the service of state closer to them and give them greater influence over it. Decentralization of power from the center and the extension of authority to smaller territorial units can lead to a more homogenous ethnic composition. Very rarely, however, will even the smaller unit be entirely "pure" in the ethnic sense. The local majority will have to share power with members of other groups living in the same territorial unit. Groups that are minorities in the nation at large can be majoritarian in the region, but they will have to be as pluralistic within the region as the majority has to be in the country at large, if minority rights are to be respected.

By sharing democratic power, the local majority may become more sensitive to the interests of other groups living in the same territorial unit. There will be also at that level an ethnic, cultural and possibly also linguistic mosaic which must be respected.

Decentralization must therefore be coupled with genuine pluralistic democratic governance in each territorial unit and with the same respect for human rights and minority rights as on the national level. Were this to be safeguarded, the prospects for decentralization are much better, and could help also to ease the burden of overgrown central governments without causing fear for groups which are in a minority position within the smaller units.

The benefits of decentralization can be several. It reduces government overload, it facilitates pluralism within the country as a whole by diffusing centres of power, it broadens the allocation of prestigious political and administrative functions, and it facilitates the organization of mother-tongue education, to mention only a few.

In the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule in Germany and Italy since 1945 and Spain after the death of Franco in 1975, democratization proceeded together with a peaceful process of decentralization from the extremely centralist governance of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. The transition from authoritarian rule in former USSR and in former Yugoslavia has also resulted in extensive decentralization, but in the case of Yugoslavia and in part of former USSR has it been much more violent and problematic.

Important is it that the decentralization is a product of negotiation and consent. When it is brought about by violence, it is likely to cause suffering which far overshadows the intended benefits. A violent quest for secession almost invariably leaders to ethnic cleansing, which are gross crimes against humanity. The actors of such practices may risk being prosecuted before the International Criminal Court in the future. On the other hand, some governments have in the past resorted to large-scale enforced population transfers in order to change the democratic structure of a given territory. Such acts also clearly constitute gross violations of international law.

Negotiated autonomies or federal arrangements may be very constructive. The reason why it often does not work is because of the lack of trust between the parties. The main problem is the lack of international guarantees. Both parties to the uneasy compromise of autonomy might want some safeguards. The government might want a guarantee that it does not lead to violent separation; the local group concerned would like a guarantee to ensure that the centre cannot annul the autonomy. The experience with Bosnia-Herzegovina has indicated that the international society at present has great difficulties in providing guarantees for either side; a fact which makes autonomy arrangements highly unstable unless and until greater confidence can be established between the parties concerned. For this task, the international society can be of help but can never fully substitute for the lack of trust between the parties themselves.

Group accommodation and the outside world

Non-intervention, good neighbourly relations and bilateral treaties

Situations involving minorities often have international repercussions. Nationalism and minority issues were major factors in the events leading up to World War 11. Severe tensions between states arising from minority treatment continue to exist. Allegations of bad treatment of minorities can be an irritant in the relation between the km state and the home state of a given minority. Such tensions can affect the security of the countries involved and create a difficult political atmosphere both internally and internationally.

In accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, states should observe in their bilateral relations the principle of non-intervention. They should abstain from any use of force, nor should they encourage the use of violence by parties to group conflicts in other states. All steps should be taken to prevent the incursion by any armed group or mercenaries into other states for participation in group conflicts.

On the other hand, states should in their bilateral relations engage in constructive cooperation to cilitate on a reciprocal basis the protection of equality and promotion of group identities. One approach, much used in recent years in Central and Eastern Europe is for States to conclude bilateral treaties or other arrangements on good neighbourly relations based on the principles of the Charter and on international human rights law. Such treaties combine commitments of non-intervention with provisions of co-operation, facilitating conditions for the maintenance of group identities and for transborder contacts by members of minorities. Provisions on minorities contained in such treaties and other bilateral arrangements are usually based on universal and regional instruments on equality, non-discrimination and minority rights. They also include provisions for the settlement of disputes over their implementation. In 1993, the European Union took an initiative to make this into a general policy aimed at guaranteeing stability in Central and Eastern Europe through bilateral agreements on good neighborliness. As a result, a Pact on Stability was signed in Paris in 1995, and transferred the task of monitoring the adoption and implementation of such treaties to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

So far, the experience with these treaties is mixed. It has given somewhat more strength to minority regulations, but the implementation has been slow. Unfortunately, the minorities themselves have not been given a role in the bilateral arrangements for the supervision of the treaties.

Bilateral and regional co-operation in solving the problems of deported peoples

The Commonwealth of Independent States has, among other issues, addressed the problem resulting from the tragic phenomena of peoples deported in the Stalin period during World War 11. The Agreement reached by CIS States on "Deported Peoples" in 1992 unanimously condemned the policy of the forced resettlement of peoples, national minorities and individual citizens of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and recognised the necessity the obligation to protect the legal interests of the deported peoples and to ensure their voluntary return to their places of residence prior to deportation. This agreement was signed by the heads of State of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakstan, Kyrgystan, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. It has been ratified by Armenia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The roles of European regional organisations

At the European level, a number of intergovernmental mechanisms and procedures have been established where at least part of the purpose is to promote in a peaceful way the right of minorities and achieve constructive accommodation. This includes the Council of the Baltic Sea States and its Commissioner on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, including the Rights of Persons belonging to Minorities; the OSCE region, with its office of the High Commissioner for Minorities; the Council of Europe which has adopted several instruments of relevance for minorities.

Of particular significance is the office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, established at the OSCE follow-tip meeting in Helsinki 1992. The mandate envisages a two-fold role. Conflict prevention is the main task. Prevention is considered to require as a first step deescalation of tensions followed by a process or reconciliation of the interests of the parties concerned.

The mandate of the High Commissioner is to provide early warning and early action at the earliest possible stage where there are tensions involving national minority issues which has the potential to develop into a conflict within the OSCE area. The task is not directly the protection of minorities, but to be an instrument for investigation and resolution of ethnic tension at an early stage. In this task, the High Commissioner nevertheless takes guidance from internationally recognized rights of members of minorities, in particular the OSCE document adopted at the Human Dimension meeting in Copenhagen in 1990.

The United Nations

In the United Nations, issues regarding minority rights and group accommodation are dealt with in the Working Group on the Rights of Minorities and in the treaty bodies, in particular Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system are also required to contribute to full realization of the rights and principles of minority protection. Projects of technical cooperation and assistance take into account the standards contained in the international instruments. United Nations organs and specialized agencies now give special consideration to requests for technical cooperation and assistance that are designed to achieve the aim of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities, and they are required to do so by Article 9 of that Declaration, which reads: The specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system shall contribute to the full realization of the rights and principles set forth in the present Declaration, within their respective fields of competence.