“Sadly in many countries, failure to value and respect diversity has led to the erosion of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, often involving their exclusion from effective participation,” said UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay.
Pillay urged all Member States to take responsibility for minority groups to ensure the implementation of their right to effective participation including in political processes.
“The exclusion of minorities from effective participation in decision making is often rooted in violations of the principles of equality and non-discrimination.” She added: “These principles are a cornerstone of the United Nations and they are embedded in the nine core international human rights instruments.”
The High Commissioner’s statement was read on her behalf by the UN Human Rights Office’s Director for Research and Right to Development Marcia V.J Kran.
The UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, also called for the active participation of minorities in socio-economic and political issues.
“Societies flourish when all voices are heard, when all opinions are considered; when all citizens participate; and when the talent that exists in all communities is enabled to contribute to political institutions. Inclusion is good for societies at large, not just for those previously left out. So, creating the conditions for the effective participation of minorities should be considered by States as an integral aspect of good governance and a key priority in their efforts to ensure equality and non-discrimination,” said McDougall.
Newly-appointed chairperson of the second session of the Minority Forum, US Congresswoman Barbara Lee also echoed the call for equal rights for minorities.
“Many situations around the world show that an adequate representation of minority groups in the society’s policy and decision making is a critical element in breaking the cycle of discrimination, disenfranchisement, disproportionate levels of poverty, suffered by minorities,” Lee told the Forum.
The forum was established in 2007, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 6/15, to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
More than 500 participants, including over 100 Minority groups from around the world gathered in Geneva, Switzerland to share experiences and borrow best practises during the second session of the Minority Issues forum.
17 November 2009