The UN Forum for Minorities celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of Minorities in December in Geneva on the theme “Review. Rethink. Reform.”
ELEN President Elin Haf Gruffudd Jones spoke at an official side event organised by the Catalan Government on minoritised language rights with the chief of DG language policy Xavier Vila, François Grin, Jasone Cenoz, and Avelli Flors Mas.
In the ELEN statement to the Forum ELEN Secretary-General Davyth Hicks called on France to respond to the recent UN Special Rapporteur’s report on regional language immersion education in France, for the UN Declaration to be upgraded to a binding Convention, that the Forum be upgraded to a longer Permanent Forum on Minorities, and the continuing need for clear, unambiguous language legislation that protects minoritised languages.
ELEN members Òmnium Cultural and Plataforma per la Llengua also made statements to the Forum. The Òmnium delegation highlighted the general lack of protection for language rights as well as underlining Catalonia’s right to self-determination.
Plataforma called on the UN to develop effective mechanisms to combat hate-speech and violence against minorities, in particular against Catalan speakers.
The Catalan President Pere Aragonès was also invited to speak at the Forum. In his speech the President Aragonès stated that, “It is necessary to preserve linguistic diversity and ensure that everyone can live fully and normally in their own language.” Catalan Culture Minister Natàlia Garriga also attended the event.
The Forum was led by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities, Fernand de Varennes, and the Chair of the Forum, Daniel Abwa, Professor of History at the Université de Yaoundé.
The Forum was attended by over 500 participants representing states, UN agencies, academic institutions, civil society, and minority organizations from across the world. The Forum agenda focused on the normative frameworks and the mainstreaming of the Declaration at the UN; minority rights defenders and their role in promoting principles of the Declaration; filling the gaps in the implementation of the Declaration and urgent situations faced by minorities.
The Forum discussions, as well as the recommendations developed at this year’s regional forums, will inform the Special Rapporteur’s final recommendations to be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2023.