December 5, 2011
UNPO Members strongly represented at annual UN Forum for the discussion of issues facing minority populations worldwide
Photo: UNPO and Minority Rights Group participants pose for a photograph at the close of the first day of the UN Forum on Minority Issues
Close to thirty representatives of nine UNPO Member organizations attended the Fourth session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, held on 29 & 30 November 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Several UNPO representatives arrived in Geneva one day in advance of the Forum for a series of pre-Forum events. An expert session was presented Monday morning by the Geneva Center for Human Rights. A number of UNPO Members contributed comments during a panel discussion on the incorporation of minority issues into the work of the UN Human Rights Council.
Minority Rights Group hosted a lunchtime discussion of minority inputs into the UN system, noting that four sessions of the Forum and six years of work on the part of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues have gained increased attention for minority issues at the UN, and questioning how minority input and interaction with the UN can be further improved. Ms. Monireh Sulemani, representative of the Balochistan Peoples Party and UNPO, joined this panel to speak about her experiences interacting with the Indigenous mechanisms of the UN, notably the youth caucus for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII).
On Monday afternoon, Minority Rights Group International and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights co-hosted a preparatory meeting for the Forum. Following presentations from MRG and the OHCHR, those present had an opportunity for open discussion of the draft recommendations of the Independent Expert on guaranteeing the rights of minority women. Several UNPO Members spoke up about their own experiences during this discussion.
Opening Day of the Forum
The Forum was opened with a video message from the new Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Ms. Rita Iszak. UNPO Members were among the first speakers under the day’s agenda items covering minority women’s access to education and minority women’s political participation. Representatives of the Ahwazi Arabs, Assyria, Degar Montagnards, Khmer Krom, Iranian Kurdistan, Ogaden, Sindh and West Balochistan, discussed the experiences of their communities in relation to these two issues.
Day 2 of the Forum
UNPO Members gave notable statements on the second day of the Forum as well, with many groups speaking up during the morning discussion of minority women’s economic, social and cultural rights.
Speaking on behalf of the World Uyghur Congress, Mr. Alim Seytoff led off the open discussion of this issue in reference to the Uyghur population in East Turkestan. The WUC statement addressed the forced transfer of young Uyghur women out of East Turkestan as well as the effect of the July 5, 2009 riots in Urumqi on Uyghur women. Following a point of order from the Chinese and Cuban delegations at the beginning of Mr. Seytoff's statement, the representative of the United States intervened to support the Forum’s role as an openly accessible venue for an array of opinions.
On Wednesday afternoon, UNPO and Minority Rights Group co-hosted a panel discussion on violence against minority women and their access to justice. Speaking to a packed room, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress discussed the violence experienced by Uyghur women under China’s communist regime. Representing the Balochistan Peoples Party, Ms. Monireh Sulemani spoke about the barriers preventing ethnic minority women in Iran from accessing justice. Prior to this event, UNPO published a special background paper on violence against minority women, their access to justice and their involvement in peacebuilding activities.
Following the expert panel, the Forum re-convened for its final session of the year. Ms. Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened this session. During the final discussion item, representatives of the Ogaden and Assyria spoke about their ideas for concrete measures towards guaranteeing the rights of minority women. UNPO Programme Coordinator Lisa Thomas also spoke on this topic, recommending specific measures aimed at advancing the protection of minority women living in situations of state-sponsored repression and violence.
Ms. H'Thaih Rcom delivers a statement on behalf of the Montagnard Foundation
UNPO-MRG panel discussion of violence against minority women
Mr. Alim Seytoff delivers a statement on behalf of Ms. Rebiya Kadeer and the World Uyghur Congress
* UNPO Member statements can be downloaded from the column to the right of this page *