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Which minorities?

As with previous HCNM recommendations and guidelines, the Llubjana Guidelines do not specifically limit their application to one group or another. The introduction explains that ‘The term “national minority” refers to a wide range of minority groups, including ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural communities, regardless of whether these groups are recognized by the States where they reside and irrespective of the designation applied to or claimed by them.’ With regard to the ‘old’ versus ‘new’ minorities debate: from a human rights perspective, the enjoyment of rights does not depend upon ‘generations’ of migrants and people cannot simply be asked to ‘leave their identities at the door’ when they enter the jurisdiction of a state. As one expert noted, the needs and interests of minorities and migrants generally overlap and tend to be articulated as similar claims.[1] [2] Furthermore, in many cases in practical terms it does not make sense to differentiate on the basis of the individual status (e.g. recent versus third generation immigrant) among those constituting an ethnic minority group when it comes to the realization of rights that benefit the whole community, for example provision of education in a minority language or road signs in the community’s language. It was therefore agreed that the substance of any recommendations should be based upon, and respectful of, a normative approach, which de facto makes no distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities. It was also felt that the Guidelines should include a compilation of practices concerning integration and management of diversity that have proven effective in different contexts. Such an approach would address any attempts by states to contest the relevance of recommendations to their particular situation, including the status of various groups living within their borders. In particular, arguments from states ‘West of Vienna’ that integration of ‘new’ immigrant populations presents a different paradigm from that of ‘traditional’ minorities would be rendered irrelevant.

While experts advised that no explicit reference should be made to particular categories of persons (‘traditional’ minorities, immigrants, non-citizens, etc.) arrangements for integration should nevertheless be considered with respect to their relevance and applicability to the situations of groups who enjoy established and guaranteed minority rights. They should also be examined from the perspective of other groups within the state who are not subject to such special protection. In the latter case, approaches and measures for addressing exclusion based on principles of equality and non-discrimination, inclusion, and the concept of reasonable accommodation, etc. would likely be most relevant and useful. Efforts were made in drafting to reflect an understanding that the specific measures appropriate to different groups will vary according to a host of factors, including group characteristics, migration histories, etc. and that reliable data as well as regular monitoring of outcomes should underpin policies to ensure that they are appropriate and effective.44 In this regard the soft law nature of the Guidelines provides the necessary flexibility for process-focused development of policies that are adaptable to concrete, local, and often differing situations and thus responsive and effective and consequently acceptable to the state and those affected.

  • [1] See the Ljubljana Guidelines 7—13 for the full set of references.
  • [2] Interview with Dr Jennifer Jackson-Preece, London, May 2010.
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