On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the responsible Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, organized the Regional Forum on Minority Issues in Europe and Central Asia. The Secretary General for Foreign Affairs, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, inaugurated the forum. Other speakers included the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, Kairat Abdrakhmanov; the Governor of South Tyrol, Arno Kompatscher; and the Director of the Agency for Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Michael O’Flaherty.
I am particularly pleased that we are able to hold the regional forum on the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities in Vienna. Austrian diplomats played an important role in initiating and negotiating the UN declaration,
Secretary General Launsky-Tieffenthal underlined Austria’s role in strengthening and developing the legal system for the protection of minorities.
The office of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues was created through an Austrian initiative, and the annual UN Minority Forum and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities in 1992 – to date the only comprehensive and global document on the rights of ethnic, national, religious or linguistic minorities – can also be traced back to an Austrian initiative.
The tripling of the number of violent conflicts in the last 10 years, most with an ethnic, religious, cultural or linguistic background, shows that minority conflicts are not a thing of the past, and have in fact been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, and Russia’s instrumentalization of minority issues as justification shows the topicality of the issue.
Our history in Europe has taught us that no one is safe if individuals or communities are ostracised or maligned because of who they belong to. Violations of minority rights are warning signs on the path to instability and conflicts. Consequently, Austria has placed the focus of its human rights agenda on promoting and protecting minority rights,
said Secretary General Launsky-Tieffenthal.
The Regional Forum for Minority Issues in Europe and Central Asia identifies and analyses best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives, and it provides a platform to promote dialogue and collaboration on issues concerning national or ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities. The 2022 Regional Forum follows three previous Regional Forums on the topics of “Minority Language Rights” (2019), “Hate Speech” (2020) and “Conflict Prevention” (2021).