Spindelegger: “Important contribution by Austria to world-wide protection of religious minorities”
Successful experts seminar held in Vienna
Vienna, 23 May 2012 – On 22 and 23 May, a high-level expert seminar discussing the protection of religious minorities was held at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna at the initiative of Austria and in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The meeting focussed on the situation of religious minorities world-wide and ways to improve their protection. The experts discussed mechanisms and systems for protection that are available at national, regional and international level. “We must not simply stand by and watch the increasing violence against religious minorities in the world. Only by taking concerted efforts internationally will we be able to ensure protection of religious minorities”, Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said.
The seminar was marked by the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Minorities that is celebrated in 2012. Spindelegger: "This anniversary offers us an opportunity to make our active contribution to tolerance and openness even more visible and to demonstrate our commitment to the world. Holding the meeting in Vienna is a first and important contribution made by Austria to mark the anniversary."
The seminar was attended by 60 experts, among them the Independent Expert of the United Nations on Minority Issues, Rita Izsak and the UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religions or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt. In the course of the coming years, they will be putting the situation of religious minorities world-wide on the agenda of discussions and pay special heed to their protection. “The attendance of both special rapporteurs underlines the international dimension of this topic. However, we, too, are called upon to create awareness not only at international but also at national and regional level and to take a clear stance”, the Foreign Minister said. Other participants of the seminar included representatives from states, international organisations and national human rights organisations, minority representatives and representatives from the civil society.
The meeting drew conclusions and passed recommendations that will be discussed, among others, at this year’s UN Minority Forum in Geneva and are also planned to be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is also planning follow-up activities to the seminar. “Austria will also continue to be pro-actively involved in this matter. We are going to use our current membership in the UN Human Rights Council to strengthen our important role in this field even further”, Vice Chancellor Spindelegger concluded.
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