Participants from ten communities who had sent representatives to this programme’s skills sharing workshops attended the ninth Session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, held in Room XX of the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Forum brings together minority representatives from across the world to open up a dialogue with other groups, UN member states and the UN Human Rights Council. The theme of the ninth session, held on 24 and 25 November 2016, was “Minorities in situations of humanitarian crises”. The Forum addressed issues such as the lack of effective mechanisms to ensure the protection of minorities and the multifaceted forms of discrimination experienced by minority communities in humanitarian crisis situations.
Representatives from the following communities made speeches at the Forum: Gilgit Baltistan, Acheh, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia, Ogaden, Ahwaz, Balochistan, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Ogoniland and the Haratin community in Mauritania. Links to these speeches are available here.
Despite disruptive attempts by a number of UN Member States to silence minority representatives, the Forum allowed minority communities to raise awareness of their experiences of humanitarian crises. Through personal testimonies and expert reports, the state and NGO attendees of the Forum were made aware of cases in which minority communities are disproportionally affected by complex and long standing conflicts. As the Draft recommendations of the ninth session state ‘minorities may suffer harsher consequences of conflict or disasters because of a pre-existing precarious social and economic position’.
On the second day of the Forum participants of this programme spoke at a side event organised by the UNPO and the Society for Threatened Peoples. Titled ‘Forgotten Crises, Forgotten Victims: Minorities and Humanitarian Challenges’, the side event featured presentations from representatives of eight minority communities. Illustrated with detailed statistical, photographic and video evidence as well as first-hand accounts these presentations provided a powerful and important insight into the challenges and systematic discrimination that minority communities face in situations of humanitarian crisis. The presentations also highlighted crisis situations that have been ongoing for decades, but that have been repeatedly neglected by mainstream international media. For a detailed report on this side event please see the UNPO’s press release available here.