UN General Assembly High Level Week – Minority Rights

UN General Assembly High Level Week

30th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

Statement by the European Union delivered by Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights

21 September 2022

 (Watch video recording below)

I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

On 18 December, 30 years will have passed since the UN Member States adopted the Declaration on the rights of Persons belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The Declaration remains a milestone for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities referred to above. It gives guidance and sets standards, inter alia, on non-discrimination, the use of mother tongue and the effective participation in decision-making.

The Declaration provided a framework for minority voices to be heard. Ensuring the rights of persons belonging to minorities to maintain and develop their own identity while safeguarding the territorial integrity and political independence of States shall complement each other.

30 years after the adoption, the EU remains convinced that the full realization of the human rights of persons belonging to minorities fosters social cohesion and solidarity and is key for preventing conflicts and ensuring of long-term stability.

Regrettably, persons belonging to minorities across the world face discrimination and are often excluded from fully taking part in society. Those facing discrimination on multiple grounds are at particular risk.

Threats, harassment and violence on the basis of ethnicity, national or social origin, race, religion or language continue.

Minority issues lie at the heart of many crises and conflicts and many serious human rights situations around the world.

Mr President,

Terrorist groups such as ISIS have made it their hallmark to attack and harass minorities such as the Yazidis.

Minority issues are used as false pretexts to justify wars, such as has been the case in Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine.

In Myanmar, appalling crimes, including reported war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed against Rohingya and persons belonging to other minorities.

The EU remains seriously concerned about the situation for members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. We welcome the release of the assessment report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which found that serious human rights violations have occurred in Xinjiang, which, according to the report, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.

The EU is also deeply concerned about the extremely dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Northern Ethiopia and urges all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

Mr President,

The EU deeply regrets past discriminatory policies implemented by Turkey, which resulted in the Greek Minority currently being on the verge of extinction. In this context, the EU reiterates the call on Turkey to protect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, including property rights of persons belonging to minorities and minorities’ legal entities.

Mr President,

States must intensify their commitment to “leave no one behind”, including by addressing multiple, aggravated and intersecting forms of discrimination and eradicating any incitement to hatred against persons belonging to minorities.

Persons belonging to minorities are often marginalised in peace processes and conflict prevention programmes. It is key to ensure their full inclusion and meaningful participation in peace processes, conflict prevention and conflict analysis, as well as their representation at all levels of decision-making.

Violence against persons belonging to minorities occurs in many forms, and often starts with words. The EU continues to combat and prevent hate crime and hate speech and support its victims through monitoring, preventing, and countering this online and offline, as well as fostering tolerance and mutual respect through interreligious and intercultural activities. The EU Code of Conduct on countering hate speech online together with the forthcoming EU Digital Services Act will provide strong regulatory tools to fight against and prevent hate speech online, including such targeting persons belonging to minorities.

In implementing the EU legislation, the EU Member States can rely on support and expertise of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, which provides useful data on issues of racism and hate crime.

Furthermore, the EU is using its entire toolbox to engage in the whole spectrum of mediation, facilitation and dialogue processes involving persons belonging to minorities, and supports human rights defenders, civil society as well as regional and local human rights mechanisms, as well as conflict prevention ones. Rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious, linguistic and other minorities are also a firm part of EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The European Union motto is ‘united in diversity’: which means a diversity of cultures, customs, beliefs and of languages. Besides the 24 official languages of the Union, there are over 60 indigenous, regional or minority languages, spoken by some 40 million people. It is this diversity that makes the European Union what it is: Not a ‘melting pot’ in which differences are rendered down, but a common home in which diversity is celebrated.

The EU pledges to respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity for all persons living in the Union – may they be recognized as a national minority or not.

To conclude, the European Union and its Member States reaffirm their joint commitment to the full implementation of the principles and rights enshrined in the Declaration on the rights of Persons belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

I thank you.

Watch the recording from the High-Level Meeting below: