Dec 20, 2010

UNPO Members Prominent on Final Day at UN Forum

The 3rd Session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues closed following a second day of discussions and interventions related to effective participation of minorities in economic life. 


The second and final official day of the Session was Wednesday, 15 December 2010. Around 500 individuals participated at the Forum, of which around 300 are representatives of minority groups or NGOs protecting and promoting minority rights. 


UNPO’s delegation was formed of 11 minority communities, three of whom provided case studies and recommendations during the first day. On the second day, UNPO Member representatives of the Iranian Kurds, the Assyrians, the Mon, the Ogaden and the Khmer Krom all intervened in the plenary session. Western Balochistan’s intervention was unfortunately sidelined but can be found on our website in full.


Mr. Loghman Ahmedi, representing the Iranian Kurds denounced gozinesh, a state sponsored criteria barring non-Shia Muslims from some universities and public sector jobs – including that of President.


In an emotional, yet articulate intervention Ms. Jennifer Babaie discussed the centuries long discrimination against the Assyrian people with particular emphasis on the recent and ongoing attacks against Christians in Iraq, drawing one of the largest applauses of the entire meeting.


Mon representative Mr. Bee Htaw Monzel also drew attention to the situation of the Mon minority in Burma, outlining how the systematic denial of Mon self-determination rights allows for the exploitation of Mon land and resources by the Burmese regime.


Mr. Abdullahi Mohammed, representing UNPO Member Ogaden, emphasized how the securitization of the Ogaden region by the Ethiopian regime has kept the region in a deliberate state of underdevelopment while the state and foreign entities profit from the region’s rich natural resources.


The Khmer Krom representative Mr. Makarar Thai used the opportunity to highlight the major issues facing the Khmer Krom in the area of economic participation.


UNPO’s Lisa Thomas also delivered a strong statement. In reference to corporate or government so-called “development” programmes, Thomas underlined that the political and economic marginalization of minorities in affected regions leaves them without any recourse for the economic, environmental and social damages wrought by such projects.


She continued to say that different forms of self-determination could be the path to a solution, and should be investigated and implemented. As a start, she suggested reference to the very basic concept of Free Prior and Informed Consent, not only in the recommendations to governments, but also those directed at the private business sector, international financial institutions and development agencies.


She also referenced the situation of the Rwandan Batwa who have been stripped of their right to self-identify as such by a government policy, which inhibits targeted action to improve their situation.


Ms. Nasrin Sulemani representing West Balochistan intended to underline the overtly discriminatory nature of gozinesh and argue that underdevelopment in West Balochistan is caused by an overly centralised state which favours the central Persian region of Iran at the expense of the periphery areas populated by ethnic and national minorities. Her intervention can be downloaded by clicking on the appropriate document on the top right hand corner of this webpage.


The Forum  was closed by this year’s Chair of the Forum, Professor Gita Sen and the Independent Expert on Minority Issues Ms. Gay McDougall. The draft recommendations paper will now undergo a final set of revisions before being presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2011.