Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

UN’s Africa-Middle East Forum provides regional insights on minorities

Published on: 17 June, 2021
United Nations building [Al Jazeera]

United Nations building [Al Jazeera]

An Africa-Middle East Regional Forum on Minorities was held on 15 and 16 June on the theme of ‘Conflict prevention and the protection of the human rights of minorities’.

The main purpose of the forum was to provide regional insights, which will feed into the thematic work of the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, for his report to the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2022. It was the second of four regional fora convened in 2021 on maintaining peace through justice and human rights for minorities

The Forum further aimed to identify and analyze best practices as well as strategies for the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The speakers address the substantive root causes of contemporary conflicts involving minorities as well as obstacles to implementing the rights of minorities and early effective conflict prevention.

Speakers also addressed gaps in human rights mechanisms to protect minorities and prevent conflicts.

The speakers included Dawda Jallow, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of The Gambia, Alice Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide as well as Turki Al-Mahmoud of the Human Rights Department of Qatar.

‘Particular unease’

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Fernand de Varennes said the position of minorities in the Arab-Middle East region is particularly important because of the diversity of the populations of the region.

De Varennes pointed out that there is a ‘particular unease’ in using the term ‘minorities’ in Africa and that the major African human rights documents such as the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights do not refer to minorities. This points to a reluctance to address the position of minorities in Africa.

De Varennes further stated that including minority rights in national constitutions does not protect or guarantee the protection of minorities. What is needed is comprehensive domestic legislation to protect minorities.

The discussions during the Forum is expected inform the work and recommendations of the 14th session of the Forum on Minority Issues, which will take place in Geneva in December 2021.