1211 GENEVA 19


Resolution adopted without a vote by the 95th Inter-Parliamentary Conference
(Istanbul, 19 April 1996)

The 95th Inter-Parliamentary Conference,

Considering that the upheavals of history have shown that the protection of minorities is essential to international stability, security and peace,

Noting that since the end of the Cold War, internal conflicts within States have featured with increasing regularity on the international political agenda,

Aware that all forms of discrimination lead to intolerance and infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those of minorities, and thus threaten democratic pluralism and endanger national and international stability, security and peace,

Noting that in many countries of the world, minorities are demanding special protection and asserting their claim to greater participation in political decision-making, and bearing in mind that, often, representatives of minorities are seeking autonomy and secession from the existing sovereign State, citing the right to self-determination,

Emphasizing that problems of minorities often pose a challenge to the democratic constitution of States, their legislative and executive activities, and the willingness of citizens to show tolerance and seek consensus,

Recognizing that the international community has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to the protection of minorities, yet underscoring the need to respect individual fundamental rights and the integrity of the State,

Affirming the need to give the greatest possible support to the four most important objectives of domestic and foreign policy endeavours to promote peace, namely:

(a) protection of the individual and respect for human rights through the rule of law in democracy,

(b) protection of individuals belonging to minorities and respect for their political, social, economic, cultural and linguistic rights,

(c) observance of the integrity of existing States,

(d) achievement of tolerance, understanding and co-operation in order to attain and preserve stability and security,

Recalling the commitments to the protection of national minorities embodied in the conventions and declarations of the United Nations, especially the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities of 18 December 1992; the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief of 25 November 1981; the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 25 June 1993; and Convention N° 169 of the International Labour Organisation relating to Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of 27 June 1989,

Also recalling the same commitments made by regional organizations, especially the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of 1 February 1995 and European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages of 5 November 1992, as well as the documents of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE),

Bearing in mind the provisions of Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concerning the rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities,

Also bearing in mind that the above-mentioned conventions and declarations have unfortunately proved insufficient to enforce rules of coexistence that prevent discrimination against persons or groups, regardless of their race, religion, nationality, sex, economic condition or social status, physical characteristics, or political ideology,

Recognizing that peaceful co-existence within States can be guaranteed only if the claims of individual citizens and the various minorities are coupled with a commitment to, and respect for, the principle of a non-partisan State and the rule of law, as well as to the basic norms of international law,

Deeply concerned, in particular, about the recent increase in the number of cases in which conflicts involving the protection and the right of participation of minorities have been deliberately provoked and have escalated into violence,

Convinced that oppression and persecution of minorities are the most frequent causes of expulsion, refugee flows and war, particularly where minorities are deprived, wholly or partly, of their right to pursue the development of their culture and traditions,

Deploring the fact that in certain cases, intolerance and violence involving minorities are deliberately provoked by demagogues who exploit latent prejudices for their own ends and manipulate information,

Aware that the cost of preventing conflict by implementing minority rights standards is minute compared to the cost of peacekeeping operations,

Realizing that progress in the field of the rights of individuals belonging to minorities depends on successful stimulation of social and economic development in areas where there is potential for conflict owing to national, ethnic, religious or racial tension,

Realizing also that in areas of potential conflict, active measures are necessary to prevent accumulation of weapons,

Appreciating the many efforts to prevent and resolve problems relating to minorities undertaken by the United Nations, especially its Commission on Human Rights and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and within the framework of the OSCE, particularly by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities,

Recalling the resolutions adopted by the 81st, 87th and 92nd Inter-Parliamentary Conferences held in Budapest (1989), Yaoundé (1992) and Copenhagen (1994), respectively,

A. Calls on Governments and Parliaments:

1. To enhance the legal status of minorities, in accordance with relevant international and regional conventions and declarations, such as ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples;

2. To condemn expulsion, persecution and "ethnic cleansing" nationally and throughout the world;

3. To denounce all acts of racism, xenophobia and discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, ethnic group, colour, gender or religion, and to co-operate in creating effective laws in this connection;

4. To settle disputes and conflicts involving national, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities by peaceful and non-violent means, and in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law;

5. To urge countries belonging to a region to conclude bilateral or multilateral treaties to implement the rights of minorities, thereby supporting the confidence-building process and the ultimate goal of peace and security;

6. To encourage links between global, transnational and regional organizations with a view to co-ordinating efforts to protect minorities;

7. To develop further the ability of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Centre for Human Rights to focus on the development of early warning mechanisms in order to prevent minority-based conflicts and, if necessary, to participate in the resolution of conflicts;

8. To adopt an open and responsive approach in negotiations on the safeguarding of minority rights, in order to ensure the territorial integrity of the State on the one hand and, on the other, the greatest possible protection of minorities and their right of participation;

9. To assist persons belonging to minorities by means of political dialogue, mechanisms which protect human rights and minorities, and the provision of advisory experts;

10. To promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and to preserve their religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage;

11. To recognize that freedom of expression includes the right of persons belonging to a national minority community to hold opinions and to receive and disseminate information in their language;

12. To ensure that persons belonging to minorities have access to the media and have the possibility of creating and using media in their own language;

13. To recognize that media have to be independent to fulfil the role they have to play in promoting domestic peace, especially during conflicts involving minorities;

14. To recognize that the executive and legislative branches have a special role and responsibility as guardians of human rights and protectors of minorities;

15. To take steps to protect and promote peaceful co-existence and constructive co-operation between the various communities within multicultural societies;

16. To give minorities the opportunity to present their interests and objectives to Parliament, and to encourage minorities to participate in public affairs;

17. To engage in open dialogue with the human rights bodies of non-governmental organizations and express interest in information and proposals concerning minority issues from such bodies;

18. To ensure:

(a) equality for persons belonging to minorities with regard to access to education at all levels, health and social welfare; and

(b) the right for minorities to have education in their own language, at least at the primary level;

19. To attach great importance to local and regional administrative provisions which take full account of the specific requirements of minorities at local and regional levels and to consider the appointment of ombudsmen to deal with individual complaints by persons belonging to minorities;

20. To remove all obstacles to the full enjoyment by minorities of the right of access to employment and of equal treatment at work, in order to diminish tensions between minorities and the rest of the national population;

21. To ensure the enforcement of measures adopted for the protection of the rights of minorities and to periodically review and analyse them in order to ensure their effectiveness in fostering societies that are stable, safe and just;

22. To take various confidence-building and other pragmatic steps designed to encourage their minorities to join the national mainstream and thereby promote national integration, recalling the philosophy of the Vedic times summed up in the two Sanskrit words "Vasudheva Kutumbakam", meaning "the world is my family";

23. To request that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights identify minority communities around the world and develop general guidelines on defining minorities;

B. Calls on minorities and their representatives:

1. To recognize that just as persons belonging to minorities have rights which require protection, they also have duties and obligations to respect civil order and the rule of law;

2. To seek peaceful solutions to their problems and refrain from using violence in securing their rights;

C. Recommends that Parliaments make the mechanisms of parliamentary diplomacy available for examining and solving questions concerning minorities.

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