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The UN Network on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities


The United Nations Secretary-General endorsed the establishment of a United Nations Network on racial discrimination and the protection of minorities in Policy Committee decision No.2012/4 of 6 March 2012. The Network was established to enhance dialogue and cooperation between relevant UN Departments, Agencies, Programmes and Funds.

Coordinated by OHCHR, the Network brings together over 20 UN Departments, Agencies, Programmes and Funds, all of which have identified focal points for this purpose (current members include DESA, DOCO, DPA, DPI, DPKO, ILO, OCHA, OHCHR, OSAPG, PBSO, UNAIDS, UNAOC, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNITAR UNODC, UN Women and WFP). Other UN entities are welcome to join.

Created in the year marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, the Network should enhance dialogue and cooperation between relevant UN Departments, Agencies, Programmes and Funds and, within 12 months, develop a guidance note for the UN system on how to address racial discrimination and protection of minorities in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other key standards, drawing from effective practices.

In the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities in December 2012, OHCHR should, with the support of DPI and other relevant members of the Network, a) develop a communications strategy to raise awareness on and promote implementation of the Declaration, with particular attention to minority women and other potential victims of multiple discrimination; and b) develop a set of core messages as well as a one page backgrounder to support stronger advocacy on racial discrimination by the Secretary-General and the UN senior leadership, and for use in their interaction with Member states, civil society and the media where relevant.

In order to enhance awareness within the UN system of these issues, OHCHR, in consultation with the Network and other relevant entities, should review the content of relevant UN Secretariat Department training initiatives for UN staff and others, and within 12 months, make proposals for how they could better incorporate issues concerning racial discrimination and national or ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities.

The three listed tasks have been completed. Regarding the Communication strategy OHCHR, in collaboration with DPI developed a communication strategy to support UN-wide efforts to raise awareness of the Declaration and increase its understanding, as well as promote its implementation by States, civil society and other stakeholders. 

With regard to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Declaration  in particular, awareness raising effort has included the creation of a distinctive visual identity for the commemoration; a special web section on the OHCHR website dedicated to the anniversary; branded promotional materials in all six official languages (banners, posters, folders); a dozen web feature stories on minority issues published throughout the year; the High Commissioner’s press statements focusing primarily on discrimination against minorities; a video interview of the Independent Expert on minority issues focusing on the anniversary and a compilation of all the recommendations made by the Forum on Minority Issues published in English, French and Spanish branded with the anniversary logo.

The Guidance Note was endorsed by the Secretary General on 6 March 2013.  It contains 19 recommendations for the UN system on how to address racial discrimination and protection of minorities in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on Minority Rights and other key standards, drawing from effective practices. The Guidance Note sets out guiding principles and framework for UN action with a view to ensuring a comprehensive and coherent UN approach from headquarters to regional and country presences. The Guidance Note does not aim to be exhaustive, but to highlight selected key areas of action for the UN system, and it complements more detailed tools and guidance that have been developed in selected fields.

The review of the content of relevant UN Secretariat Department training initiatives for UN staff and others was also undertaken and a compilation of tools, guidance and other documents prepared.

As to next steps, an action plan to support the implementation of the Guidance Note at both headquarters and in the field is being developed by the Network in cooperation with field presences.

Publications and Documents

Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on Racial Discrimination and Protection of MinoritiesGuidance Note of the Secretary-General on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (PDF)

Published: March 2013
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