Header image for news printout

Minorities being left behind with growing inequality, discrimination and intolerance – UN expert

NEW YORK (21 October 2021) –  The United Nations’ pledge to “leave no one behind” is failing many because development is prioritized over people and there is insufficient focus on the most marginalized communities, especially minorities, a UN expert told the General Assembly today.

“The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) measures and indicators must be more human oriented, and focus more on the marginalized, most disadvantaged and excluded groups in order to capture existing systemic and other forms of discrimination, and reduce disparities and inequalities where most needed,” Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, said in presenting a report assessing the impact of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on minorities. “The world is increasingly unequal with minorities and indigenous peoples, and particularly women from these communities, seldom at the heart of strategies and initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

“We must prioritise people over development if we want to avoid further exacerbating the expanding gap between the richest and the poorest members of society.

“I am deeply concerned that minorities, indigenous peoples and especially women from these communities are seldom at the heart of strategies and initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, he said. “There is little or no attention in SDG measures and indicators to how minorities are treated or impacted in social and economic development terms.” Indicator for target 10.2 which was to “empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all” excludes the collecting of data on grounds such as ethnicity, religion or language that would be essential to measure the inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groups such as vulnerable minorities such as Afrodescendants, Dalits and Roma.

“Not acknowledging or taking into account ethnicity, religion or language as key markers of social and economic exclusion, risks masking the intersecting forms of discrimination that combine to exacerbate the marginalization of minority and indigenous women and the inequality they face in terms of benefiting from social and economic development,” he said.


Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things. He is Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria in South Africa; Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong; and Visiting Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland-Galway. He is one of the world's leading experts on minority rights in international law, with more than 200 publications in some 30 languages.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

For inquiries and media requests, please contact José Parra jose.parra@un.orgor write to minorityissues@ohchr.org

 For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact: Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter@UN_SPExperts

Concerned about the world we live in?
Then STAND UP for someone's rights today.
and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org