Commemorating 30 Years of Declaration, Secretary-General Says Countries Promoting Minorities’ Rights, Participation in Society More Prosperous, Peaceful

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ opening remarks at the high-level meeting to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, in New York today:

We are celebrating a landmark moment — 30 years since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

The Declaration remains the only United Nations international human rights instrument entirely devoted to minority rights.  And it enshrined three core truths:  First, that minority rights are human rights.  Second, that the protection of minorities is integral to the mission of the United Nations.  Third, that the promotion of those rights is vital to advancing political and social stability and preventing conflict within and between countries.

Today, we come together to critically assess where we stand in realizing the Declaration — from non-discrimination to the effective participation of minorities in decision-making across all areas of life.

The hard truth is that — 30 years on — the world is falling short.  Far short.  We are not dealing with gaps — we are dealing with outright inaction and negligence in the protection of minority rights.  We see minorities face forced assimilation, persecution, prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, hatred, and violence.  We see minorities stripped of their political and citizenship rights, their cultures stifled, their languages suppressed and their religious practices curtailed.

More than three quarters of the world’s stateless people belong to minorities.  The COVID-19 pandemic revealed deep-rooted patterns of exclusion and discrimination disproportionally affecting minority communities.  Women from minority groups have often been the worst off — facing an escalation in gender‑based violence, losing jobs in greater numbers, and benefiting the least from any fiscal stimulus.

It is past time we live up to the commitments made in this very hall in 1992.  We need political leadership and resolute action.  I call on every Member State to take concrete steps to protect minorities and their identity.  My Call to Action for Human Rights offers a blueprint for all Governments to address long-standing issues of discrimination, including through partnerships with the grassroots leadership of affected communities.

The report on Our Common Agenda calls for a renewed social contract, anchored in a comprehensive approach to human rights.  In every action and decision, minorities themselves must be meaningfully included as active and equal participants.

This participation is not just for the benefit of minority groups.  We all benefit:  States that protect the rights of minorities are more peaceful.  Economies that promote the full participation of minorities are more prosperous.  Societies that embrace diversity and inclusion are more vibrant.  And a world in which the rights of all are respected is more stable and more just.

Today’s commemoration should be a catalyst for action.  Let us work together to make the Declaration a reality for minorities everywhere.  Protecting communities and providing a voice.  Preventing conflict and ensuring accountability.  Promoting equality and embracing diversity.  And placing human rights at the heart of all we do.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.