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Forum on Minority Issues

Working group
Independent Expert on minority issues

2. Increase the understanding of minority issues in the context of promoting social inclusion and ensuring stable societies

Minority rights, inclusion and equality play an important role in promoting political and social stability and peace. This has been recognized at the highest level of the UN and stated in the outcome document of the 2005 World Summit of Heads of State and Government, approved by the General Assembly. The implementation of law and policy relevant to inclusion and equality, and effective strategies for social cohesion, are therefore important goals which the Independent Expert is pursuing.

The Independent Expert recognizes that exclusion, discrimination and racism directed at minority groups may result in social unrest based on inequality. There is a need to better understand the causes and prevalence of discrimination against minorities in order to put in place effective policies and practices to address such situations, and avoid them. The Independent Expert consistently highlights to States the significant benefits of legislative and policy reform which seeks to promote effective strategies of social cohesion, equality and non-discrimination. She is mandated to identify possibilities for technical cooperation by the OHCHR to assist States in this respect. She also recognizes the need for mechanisms, including indicators, which allow deteriorating situations to be identified as early as possible in order to avoid grievances developing into violence, conflict or even genocide.

Minorities and the Discriminatory Denial or Deprivation of Citizenship

The Independent Expert consults with members and representatives of minority communities who reported experiencing denial and deprivation of citizenship during her visit to Dominican Republic in 2007In the context of promoting social inclusion and ensuring stable societies, the Independent Expert has conducted thematic work on issues relating to the discriminatory denial or deprivation of citizenship as a tool for exclusion of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, which formed the thematic focus of her annual report to the 7th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2008. That work included convening an expert seminar on the subject in Geneva in December 2007. Minorities often face discrimination and exclusion, and they struggle to gain access to their human rights, even under conditions of full and unquestioned citizenship. Denying or stripping them of citizenship can be an effective method of compounding their vulnerability, and can even lead to mass expulsion. Once denied or deprived of citizenship, minorities are inevitably denied protection of their basic rights and freedoms, including minority rights as established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, close to 15 million people in more than 49 countries are stateless, and numbers appear to be increasing. Many minorities live in a precarious legal situation because, even though they may be entitled under law to citizenship in the State in which they live, they are often denied or deprived of that right and may in fact exist in a situation of statelessness. While many conditions give rise to the creation of statelessness, including protracted refugee situations and State succession, most stateless persons today are members of minority groups. The report of the Independent Expert provides a consideration of the global situation and elaborates a series of recommendations.


HRC 7 th session - 2008


Report of the independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall – Minorities and the Discriminatory Denial or Deprivation of Citizenship


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