The protection of the rights of minorities is provided for under article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and further elaborated in the 1992 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or linguistic Minorities. Regional organisations have also adopted legal standards, such as the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (1994).
Religious and national or ethnic diversity are two of the main components of pluralism in contemporary societies. At the same time, ethnic and religious diversity, and inadequate government protection of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, still constitute an unresolved challenge, to varying degrees, in all parts of the world; in recent years this has been compounded by conflict and instability in the Middle East and the growth of extremism, which has highlighted the urgent plight of ethnic and religious minorities in the region.
This meeting brought together policy makers and practitioners, with other experts, to:
- Take stock of the implementation of international standards for the protection of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, identifying the challenges;
- Explore how better protection for ethnic and religious minorities in current situations of concern may be provided, in particular by national governments and institutions;
- Identify how the international community should play a role in strengthening protection of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in particular in the most urgent situations.
The meeting examined protection of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities globally, with a focus on the Middle East region.