Commissioner George Ngwane Invited To The United Nations (UN) Forum On Minority Issues In Geneva, Switzerland.
I got an invitation, as Executive Director of AFRICAphonie, UN Minority Senior Fellow Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Geneva, and Board member of the Minority Rights Group International London, from the United Nations (UN) to attend the Forum on Minority Issues that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, 1-2 December 2022.
I am familiar with the forum because I had this same invitation in November 2016 when I was doing my Fellowship on Minority issues with the Office of High Commission for Human Rights, Geneva. That year I did not only participate at the forum but made a formal presentation at the plenary. The Forum on Minority Issues was established to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as thematic contributions and expertise to the work of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues. It was established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 6/15 of 28 September 2007, renewed by resolution 19/23 of 23 March 2012. The Forum identifies and analyzes best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives for the further implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
The Forum meets annually for two working days allocated to thematic discussions. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues guides the work of the Forum, prepares its annual meetings and reports on the thematic recommendations of the Forum to the Human Rights Council. This year marked the fifteenth session with the theme”Review. Rethink. Reform. 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Minority Rights “. Together with close to 200 participants drawn from different backgrounds and different countries we analysed practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives in addressing conflict prevention and the protection of the human rights of minorities, in line with the principles and rights enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and other relevant international instruments.
Divided into four panel discussion groups, one of the panels reviewed the scope of the Declaration, the groups that it covers, and those that it leaves behind, and ways in which the scope of the normative framework can be made more relevant and effective; another panel group shared views about building partnerships in support of and with minority leaders, especially minority women and young people, and the role of the United Nations, international and regional organizations, States and donor organizations in building the capacity of civil society organizations representing minority groups for monitoring, advocacy and promoting the realization of their human rights. Yet panel 3 participants were encouraged to provide recommendations for addressing, preventing and reporting cases of reprisals against minority representatives who are cooperating with the United Nations to advance the implementation of the Declaration. And the last panel group dwelt on whether additional instruments at the international or regional levels are needed, whether existing norms should be strengthened through better implementation, oversight and enforcement, whether businesses or other international economic institutions, including development aid, should be better included in the efforts to protect the rights of minorities. All panel discussions were characterised by innovative proposals, open dialogue, constructive exchanges and the sharing of information on issues of urgent concern facing minority rights. The recommendations of the Fifteenth session will be presented at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, in March 2023. The Forum was chaired by the Cameroonian historian Prof. Daniel Abwa.
Learning captured in the interest of NCPBM
- Enhanced knowledge on good practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives in addressing conflict prevention and the protection of the human rights of minorities, in line with the principles and rights enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minoritiesand other relevant international instruments.
- Improved insight into cultural pluralism or multiculturalism as seen in the various perceptions of minority groups and their advocacy of recognition in their mainstream national development programmes
I wish to extend my gratitude to the President of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism H.E Peter Mafany Musonge for the opportunity granted me to attend this event.
Ngwane George Esambe
President Working Group on Bilingualism (NCPBM)