Last Wednesday, March 14, OIDEL attended the interactive dialogue on minorities of the Special Rapporteur Mr. Fernand de Varennes. The report identifies four priority issues for his mandate: statelessness and the human rights of minorities; ethnic conflicts, minority rights and promoting inclusiveness and stability; tackling hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric and incitement to hatred against minorities; and education as a human right and its contours and impact for minorities.
These are extremely important issues for minorities. Beyond these priorities, the report highlights the importance of giving more visibility to minorities. It also underscores the crucial role that young people belonging to minorities play in the promotion and protection of the rights of their communities, particularly through the use of digital media and various social media platforms. The Special Rapporteur stresses the importance of including young people belonging to minorities in decision-making processes, which transform them into active agents of change in their respective contexts.
Focusing on the education issue, it is worth noting that it is the first time that a thematic report on education has been prepared within the framework of this mandate, despite the importance of education as a fundamental human right essential for the preservation of identity of minorities. However, some United Nations agencies and other entities have addressed the issue of education from different perspectives, for example in relation to language rights and racial discrimination.
One of the most important problems for minorities and many states around the world continues to be the difficult access to quality education without discrimination. The report determines that education is not only a key component of the protection of the identity of minorities, but it is fundamental for their effective and full inclusion in society. The Special Rapporteur considers that this is a main thematic priority of his mandate, since the existence of minorities should no longer be merely tolerated or accepted.
Finally, the Special Rapporteur hopes to continue promoting the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, by implementing the mandate and taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of international organizations, civil society groups and other interested parties. Likewise, it is necessary to continue working on the clarification of the nature and human rights of minorities in the field of education, particularly regarding the use of a minority language as a teaching language. This issue occupies a predominant place in many contexts.
Regarding the intervention of some States, all agreed that education is a tool to empower minorities. They also highlighted the important role that education plays and the need to continue advancing and working in this area.
Once again, OIDEL took the floor to make the following oral statement as it follows:
“Thank you Mr. President,
Firstly, we will like to congratulate the new Special Rapporteur on minority issues Mr. Fernand de Varennes and we wish him every success in his work. We also want to take the opportunity to offer him our support and assistance during his mandate.
We celebrate that among the priorities of the new mandate the Special Rapporteur has highlighted the right to education. We want to highlight the important role that education plays for the protection of minorities as it is already recognized in article 4.4 and 4.5 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Education is a cultural right and as Emmanuel Kant said it is the process through a man becomes a man in all the spheres, including the identity. The human being cannot be conceived as an isolated island and therefore this is why it is so important that the education a child receives is culturally rooted. The respect of the cultural dimension of education enables children to understand in a holistic way who they are, where do they come from and to understand its surroundings. This is a particularly important in the context of the protection of minorities.
To guarantee the respect of the cultural dimension of education and to guarantee minorities rights, the existence of alternative schools to mainstream system is required. On this regard, we can underline the important role that the Christian Schools are playing for Christian minorities in the Middle East, the Jewish Schools in Europe or the Maori School in New Zealand. On this regard, it is also important to highlight that the States fund these schools. We cannot acknowledge proper recognition of minorities if they have to pay more to attend to schools respectful with their culture.