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Race, Racism and the Law 
Speaking Truth to Power!

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Ethnic and National Minorities and Groups

NGO Forum, World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, August 27-Sept 1, 2001

This page is part of much larger document. Please be sure to read the Overview, the Declaration-Guiding Principles, Programme of Action-Guiding Principles, and Programme of Action - Legal Measures which provide the context for understanding this page. Click here to Download Word Document.




113. Members of many national, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic groups including on the basis of their being considered a minority are subjected, collectively and individually, to all forms of racism including denial of citizenship, exclusion from political participation, social and economic resources of the state, as well as genocide practices. We acknowledge that internal passport and residence permit system represent a policy leading to discrimination and expulsion of ethnic minorities and groups in many regions, in particular, in countries in transition. The ways in which nation- or ethnic-state structures strengthen majority rule is a main factor in such exclusion.

114. The enjoyment of rights based on principles of human dignity and liberty has been a historical challenge, particularly for people who became national minorities in their homeland through processes of colonization and dispossession of their land. These processes have led to the denial of the right of minorities and groups to sovereignty and self-determination and have placed limitations on the right of women to transmit their nationality to their children, on an equal basis with men.

115. We assert that minorities and groups are entitled to affirm their right to self determination which includes, inter alia, the recognition of their history, national memory, historical land claims, language rights, cultural rights, religious rights as well as the right to share political power.

116. Affirmative action, through the use of temporary measures is a method of redressing historical injustices and has often been used to advance the cause of minority communities. Regrettably, however, it has sometimes been used by states to promote majoritarian ethno-nationalism, as in Malaysia and in Sri Lanka.

Programme of Action

314. We urge States to fully recognize all fundamental human rights for members of ethnic and national groups, and especially full equal citizenship for them in all fields of public life. States should repeal legislation that facilitates discrimination against ethnic and racial minorities and prevents them from enjoying their identity, culture, religion and language or renders members of minority communities stateless.

315. We recommend that governments and international organizations take urgent action to eradicate the widespread discrimination and persecution of ethnic and national groups, by implementing national public and social policies to redress discrimination, including affirmative action programmes. In particular, States should set up systems of government and administration that allow ethnic and national groups to participate in decision-making and implementation. States engaged in post-conflict transition should adopt systems of power sharing, based, wherever possible, on parties rather than ethnicity.

316. We urge states to enact legislation, including constitutional protection, in order to ensure cultural rights for all, and to protect and promote cultural diversity on their territory. We recommend that governments develop intercultural educational provisions and curricula that are culturally and linguistically appropriate. These should ensure that all groups and individuals have an understanding of their multicultural society, and that they share common values in the public domain, which evolves through democratic participation. States should support and encourage organizations that promote minority cultures and languages, and promote cultural exchanges and understandings between different communities.

317. Where an ethnic or national groups is geographically concentrated, states should establish territorial autonomy to provide for self-government, where and when the ethnic or national group desire it. The rights of other minorities, especially smaller groups within these areas, should also be protected, and individual rights always respected.

318. The state has an obligation to provide human security for all persons and must desist from using its security and military apparatus to manipulate and create divisions amongst minority communities. States must take immediate steps to reduce their military budgets and channel these resources into the establishment of country-wide multi-cultural education and media programmes and the promotion and protection of minority rights.

319. We urge States to ensure that national human rights mechanisms independently and effectively monitor the impact of development projects and programmes on ethnic and national groups, while ensuring their conformity with international human rights standards. These mechanisms should ensure the full participation of the affected communities and of civil society in the monitoring process. Governments should adopt land tenure and land use policies and regulations that are in conformity with international standards on traditional land and territorial rights for ethnic and national groups. The land rights of pastoral, nomadic and forest peoples must be recognised and enshrined in law.

320. We recommend that governments, and multilateral and bilateral development agencies ensure the right of ethnic and national groups to participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of country strategies, development plans and programmes that affect them. This participation must be comprehensive and transparent through all stages of the project cycle. The nature of participation should be consistent with the traditional decision-making processes of ethnic and national groups, if they so request. Equal consideration should be given to, inter alia, women, older people, persons with disabilities, children and those living with HIV and AIDS within ethnic and national groups, allowing them to express their own perception of rights and development needs.

321. We call for the development of a binding international convention on persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, based on the UN Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

322. We call for the creation of an international judicial mechanism whose mandate will be to intervene in cases of widespread human rights abuses especially concerning the rights for life and security of the members of of ethnic or national groups.

323. We call for the establishment of regional systems for the protection of ethnic and national groups where they do not currently exist.

324. We call on States to set up institutions, such as minority ombudspersons, to ensure fair treatment for ethnic and national groupsand the promotion of ethnic and national participation in political, economical, social and cultural life as well as in any fields of public life.

325. The Palestinian Citizens of Israel should be recognized as a distinct national minority group based on Article 27 of the ICCPR. We call for the implementation of the recommendations and concluding comments regarding Israel issued by UN Human Rights treaty or Charter based bodies such as the CESCR, the Human Rights Committee and the Commission on human rights, which emphasized the Palestinian citizens' collective rights regarding lands, absentee property, uprooted villages and the unrecognized villages.

326. We express deep concern at the systematic and institutionalized discriminatory policies practiced against the Kurdish people. We condemn the crimes committed against the Kurdish people, such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, denial of their cultural and linguistic rights, mass disappearances, destruction of villages and towns. In order to ensure Kurdish people's rights for freedom, dignity and self determination we call upon the international community and the concerned states to end these policies, render justice, decide on reparations for the victims and develop effective monitoring mechanisms. We demand that the right of the Kurdish people to statehood be recognized

327. We express our concern for the Uyghur people of East Turkistan and recommend that the UN establish a Working Group to investigate the serious allegations of mass executions, torture and disappearance of Uyghur political and religious prisoners.

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