Tove H. Malloy

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Archive for minority rights

Monitoring the European Framework Convention

The protection of national minorities was thrown into the international arena in the aftermath of World War One. During the peace negotiations in Paris, it became clear that numerous ‘new’ national minorities would be created and an international watchdog was required. The end of the War saw the creation of the League of Nations and a number of international Minority Treaties to be monitored by the League of Nations’ Commission. However, events in Europe for most of the twentieth century prevented the international approach taking hold of the issue. At the global level, national minority rights gained some leverage with the establishment of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee in 1979 under the auspices of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted in 1966. In Europe, the arguably strongest step towards protecting national minorities was taken, almost three quarters of a century after the Minority Treaties, with the adoption of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) in 1995. Subsequently, the Advisory Committee to the FCNM was established in 1998 upon the entering into force of the instrument.

Today, the FCNM sits at the top of a pyramid of international law instruments that comprise the ‘family’ of minority rights documents, or what might be called a minority rights regime. The quest, which began with the decision of the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 asking the Economic and Social Council of the UN to ensure that a study on ‘the problem of minorities’ be undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights and the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, reached its climax in the UN system with the adoption in 1992 of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. During this quest, the UN included minority rights protection in Article 27 of the 1966 ICCPR on the cultural rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. Outside the UN system, the momentum was kept when in Vienna in 1993 the Council of Europe decided to draft a document that would protect persons belonging to minorities, namely the FCNM. The ‘family’ also include important anti-discrimination provisions, such as Article 14 of the Council of Europe’s 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 21 of the European Charter for Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (2000).

Unlike at the time of the League of Nations, international politics is now quite accustomed to international watchdogs. Studies of international relations focus increasingly on the functioning and leverage of such institutions, especially institutions of the UN system, such as the Human Rights Committee and its reform. In Europe the focus has been on the European Court of Human Rights and its various reforms. However, very little research has focused on European monitoring bodies, such as the Advisory Committee to the FCNM. This gap has now been filled with a new book titled, Minorities, their Rights, and the Monitoring of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities issued by Brill Publishers. For more see the publisher or ECMI homepage.


An ECPR standing group