Monday, April 15, 2013

Africa: 100s of minority groups in dire need of protection

 Ms. Rita Izsák, Independent Expert on Minority Issues (Photo credit: OCHR)
Hundreds of minority groups across Africa are in dire need of strengthened attention and protection, Rita Izsák, United Nations’ Independent Expert on Minority Issues warns on Thursday.

All African States and the international community must act urgently, she said at the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) hosted in Banjul, The Gambia from April 9-23, 2013. 
“The debate on who are the minorities and who are the indigenous peoples in Africa must not prevent stakeholders from addressing the extremely vulnerable situation of hundreds of minority communities across the continent,” Izsák said.

She said it would be of crucial importance that the African Commission looks into available options to dedicate specific attention to minority issues and ensure that relevant concerns are addressed in a more systematic way.

In addition to ethnic and national minority groups that might come to mind first, the UN expert said linguistic and religious minorities are also entitled to enjoy protection under the UN Declaration on Minorities. 
Fulfilling the rights of minorities is an essential means to prevent tensions from emerging and is a key element of good governance, said Izsák, who recall that in several African countries hundreds of diverse groups live together.

She added: “The ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity must be recognized as enriching the society and its historical heritage and be protected and promoted to the full extent possible.”
Izsák, however, welcomed the fact that the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has so far issued 70 recommendations to African States regarding minority issues in up to 30 countries.

She noted that majority of those recommendations have been accepted by the concerned Member States, but, the key question she emphasized on, relates as to who will assist Member States in fulfilling their obligations and who will hold them accountable. 
Rita Izsák presence marks her first participation at an Ordinary Session of the ACHPR - designated by the UN Human Rights Council as a follow-up to a concrete recommendation stemming from the UN Forum on Minority Issues. 
Ms Izsák, said she is using this opportunity to seek formal and informal engagement with various human rights actors in the region. She describes her participation in the African Commission’s 53rd Session as a first step towards a closer collaboration with the African human rights system.

She is confident that dialogue will be continued in order to achieve strengthened attention and efforts to protecting and promoting the rights of minorities across Africa. 

Written by Modou S. Joof

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