Panel to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
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Geneva, 13 March 2012
Statement by Austria
Thank you, Mr. President.
Adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in 1992, the Declaration is the main international reference document for minority rights. It inter alia grants to persons belonging to minorities the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion as well as the right to participate effectively in decisions which affect them on the national or regional levels. These rights can only be guaranteed by the full and effective implementation of the provisions of the Declaration. In addition to directly granting rights to persons belonging to minorities, the Declaration also provides all States with guidance and inspiration regarding measures that serve to improve the protection of their rights.
Let me thank the OHCHR for organizing this panel as well as the panelists for their comprehensive contributions. As main sponsor of the resolution calling for the organization of this panel, Austria is particularly proud and honored to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities in such a way. We consider this panel a useful tool in order to reflect on and assess the implementation of this important document as well as to exchange best practices in this regard.
After 20 years of existence, the status of implementation is still not satisfactory and its provisions lack attention. Therefore, initiatives like this panel help to raise awareness about the existence of the Declaration and to further promote the rights of persons belonging to minorities. We very much hope that today’s discussion will facilitate our work and will also inform on possible avenues which could be undertaken to integrate more effectively the rights of persons belonging to minorities in the work of the Human Rights Council an its mechanisms.
Austria will continue its commitment to the mechanisms established to promote and protect the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including the mandate of the Independent Expert as well the Forum on Minority Issues. In particular the Forum which is a unique platform within the United Nations for promoting dialogue and cooperation on this issue has contributed to the enhanced visibility of minority rights.
Let me now ask two questions to the panelists:
First, which are in your view the most prevailing challenges in the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to Minorities?
Second, could you give us advice on how the Council could best use the outcome of this discussion as well as of other events related to the 20th anniersary? Before concluding, let me use a quotation of the Amrican writer Norman Mailer which we shuld bear in mind while discussing the rights of persons belonging to minorities:
"What characterizes a member of a minority group is that he is forced to see himself as exceptional and insignificant, marvelous and awful, good and evil."
I thank you.