Type: Analysis
Pages: 10 | Words: 2742
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The minority rights are the rights that concern a group of individuals that are politically and racially separated from the dominant group residing within a certain jurisdiction. For many years, civil rights movements have sought to assure the minority groups that they will not be forced to suppress their rights in the unfair submission to a dominant group in their society. The activities of civil rights movements have prompted political parties as well as several other organizations to include the principles of minority rights among the pillars of their ideology. This inclusion has prompted the members of several non-dominant groups to keep hoping that the preservation of their ethnic, religious, and cultural values will eventually succeed. The universal recognition and subsequent protection of the rights of the minority groups began when the League of Nation set out to adopt various treaties to that effect (“European Union Committee”, 2011).

Upon its succeeding of the League of Nations, the United Nations initiated a number of mechanisms, norms, and procedures that had been concerned with the affairs of the minority. To this effect, the UN adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966 and the United Nations Minorities Declaration in 1992. The adoptions of these conventions recognized and sought to protect the rights of those individuals who happened to be categorized as a belonging to minority groups on the basis of one or several factors.

The minorities worldwide have often been victimized during the internal strife and armed conflicts. In that case, some of the challenges faced by the internally displaced members of the minority groups have been as a matter of concern for a significant duration of time. Women and children happened to bore the blunt in the situations where minorities had been discriminated systematically. For instance, they could lack an adequate housing, clothing, food, and other social amenities. Although such difficulties known to have been persistent, there was not an internationally agreeable and precise definition of what constitutes a minority group. Almost every state has the individuals who view themselves as being the minorities by virtue of their ethnic, national, religious, and linguistic identities. This is the case when such identities happen to be distinctively different from those of the dominant group (Burley & Mattli, 1993).

With regard to the experiences of the minority groups throughout the world, the United Nations Minorities Declaration as well as other international agreements that relate to the rights of the minorities has been formulated with the view of addressing their specific concerns. These concerns included: the issue of survival and existence, non-discrimination and equality, meaningful and effective participation in societal affairs, as well as the protection and promotion of the elements facilitating the identification of these minorities. Most steps towards the protection of the minority groups are focused on assuring their physical existence. As such, the international community has assumed the obligation of protecting these communities from, let’s say, crimes against the humanity as well as acts of genocide (Burley & Mattli, 1993).

According to the Durban Declaration of 2001, the protection of cultural, ethnic, religious, and linguistic identities of the minority groups is the responsibility of the international community. The intervention of the international community, once sanctioned, is presumably the best strategy of protecting these minority groups wherever they are residing. Nevertheless, there are several instances where the international community has overstepped its mandate, while protecting the minority or the disadvantaged ones in the society; a scenario that has resulted into the instances of grave violations of the territorial integrity of the jurisdiction in question. The overstepping of the sanctioned mandate is aimed at containing such political divergences like the case of the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

The issue of the minorities’ rights and, by extension, their self-determination has been among the most complex affairs that the international community has been dealing with in the recent years. Much of the complexity has been driven as a result of the imprecise definition of what it entails. The international community is, therefore, denied a proper guidance while responding to the crises that involve minorities. Intertwining the issue of self-determination with safeguarding the rights of the minority groups has transformed the latter into a political activism. Safeguarding the rights of minority groups from the political front is a fairly recent phenomenon and the issue that has been embraced to restrain diverging opinions. This strategy began after WWI, and the whole scenario was instigated by the necessity to gain from the disintegration of such empires as the Austrian Hungarian and the Ottomanan (Jans, 2007; Lori, 1993).

Being overridden with the principle of self-determination does, definitely, make the issue of the political rights of minorities. The governments and other political forces around the world have always adopted the principle of self-determination, sometimes justifiably. On most occasions, however, the principle of self-determination has been adopted inequitably and in the manner that happens to be more divisive than unifying. For instance, after President Woodrow Wilson had embraced the principle of self-determination, it was presumed that the American government was only concerned with the protection of the minority rights. However, it soon became clear that several officials in the American government favored the political independence of these groups. Some even advocated for the funding of secessionism in the most part of Eastern Europe as well as in several other regions of the world.

Many Western governments shared the view of the American authorities, and by the time the issue of minority rights was being sanctioned at the UN; there was the evidence that it had been overridden by political motives. The matter was aggravated by the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples in 1960. Many critics argued that the aspect of decolonization, especially with regard to territories, could be wrongly applied by the parties whose sinister motives are, essentially, political. Some of the concerns of the critics were proved right when a significant number of governments had indicated that the idea was behind the decolonization and that relation to the rights of the minority groups had been inseparable. On this basis, many nations have had their territorial integrities heldin contempt by the powerful forces. This is especially so when these forces regard the institution of minority rights as being impossible before statehood conferred to all distinctive ethnic groups (Christine, 2004).

A significant number of observers are concerned about the confusing definitions of the minority rights, self-determination, and decolonization. Many of them feel that the confusion has and continues to fuel the acts of violence that are typical of the most independence movements. In almost all instances, the independence movements propagate an erroneous perspective that the current international borders are accidental. They argue that since these borders have been determined arbitrarily, their permanence is not justifiable as nothing can legitimize the whimsical grouping of communities with diverse cultures. According to these movements, the grouping of these communities for a mere purpose of establishing the national states is totally unnecessary as it is accomplished with the little regard to cultural values. In some cases, the argument is the grouping of these communities is, or was, completed against the will and aspirations of the parties concerned (Lesieur & Guild, 1998).

Granting the political independence to every distinctive minority group is not possible under any circumstance. Nevertheless, even if we presume such a move to be possible, the threat that the issue of the minority rights poses to the territorial integrity of jurisdictions may not be extenuated. In fact, the quest for the rights of the minority has been proved to be a permanent phenomenon, especially because of its politicized nature. Moreover, the nature of the political independence that the aforementioned movements seek could simply be unmanageable as it is, in most cases, basing on the Western ideas of human rights and democracy. It may, therefore, be impossible to implement these values in other societies, especially those that happen to have had the inadequate experience with statehood as well as the Western historical elaboration of sovereignty.

The historical accounts indicate that whenever parties find the national borders to be violable, others are inspired into violating their own. Therefore, the success of a group of people or a community serves to preserve the ideology of separatism and, in the extreme circumstances, secessionism. In most cases, the Western nations have been blamed for fueling secessionism, while maintaining that their own national borders are being inviolable. This double standard has been employed for a purpose of attaining and retaining the political dominance. It has, therefore, not been universally justifiable or accepted. This scenario has always been polarizing the intervention of the international community in regional or national affairs (Gabriel, 2004).

A number of major political players has always insisted that the issues related to the rights of the minority groups should be left to such institutions as religious and educational/exploratory centers. According to these players, the political leadership in a jurisdiction should then establish the reliable avenues through which these centers can share their finds and views. The advocates of this perspective seek to minimize the number of instances when the international community intervenes one-sidedly. Any biased intervention does not solve the fundamental factors that would have prompted the violation of rights of the minority groups. In fact, such an intervention has always proved to be a recipe for a disaster. Having appreciated the challenges that would accompany a misguided search for the minority rights, such empires as China and Russia have always been skeptical of the steps that the Western world takes in its endeavor to assist the minority groups (Mattli & Anne, 1998).

As it has been indicated earlier, the philosophy of self-determination has never been a solution to the challenges that result when the minorities are disesteemed. This is especially so, since the minority rights have not been precisely defined, and because the idea behind self-determination has been clouded with various subjective meanings. The critics argue that none of the ideas that are attached to the rights of minority groups are intended to redress their central concerns. Instead of empowering the individuals to respond in a manner that seeks to fulfill their aspirations, the ideas behind the self-determination and decolonization have precipitated crises deteriorating the difficulties that the minorities have endured (Alter, 1999).

In most cases, the standards that are defined by the customary human rights have been neglected as the parties focus on fulfilling their political aspirations. Soon upon their founding, the self-determination movements abandon their original goals. The feeling that they are free to disregard the law, at least in the interim, has turned most of them into the worst human right violators, a situation that makes individuals regret ever staging struggles against the state. Moreover, they fail to differentiate the right to the self-determination from the misplaced right to secession. The failure derails the appreciation of some workable intermediate categories that can empower minorities as they seek to fulfill their aspirations. For instance, the minority groups overlook the success that their membership to some nonpolitical regional and international forums can avail (Ngai, 1998).

It is unfortunate that once the political forces have attained their goals, the issue of rights is abandoned, and the individuals are left at a similar or even worse state than they had been before. For instance, the nationalities that have emerged after the collapse of the Austrian Hungarian Empire happened to be ruled tyrannically. The collapse ushered in a period of the unprecedented abuse of minorities, a situation that persisted until the 1990s. When the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was established, it became a major European power that matched the likes of Russia, Britain, Germany, and France. The founding of the empire has brought peace, especially to Hungarians, in a manner that had not been possible before. The peace has facilitated the economic growth throughout the empire and individuals’ lives have improved as well (Lori & David, 1991).

Despite the success that the empire had, nationalists and political liberals kept demanding an extra level of autonomy. They argued that the emperor’s absolute rule was disrespectful to the rights of the minority groups all over the empire. Although that could have been true in some sense, the fact that the founding of the empire has facilitated improvements in individuals’ lifestyles could have prompted them to give the leadership a chance to serve the people. That did not happen, and a significant amount of time and resources has been utilized in curbing dissent. Of course, much of the dissent was politically based; and it had nothing to do with the rights of the minority groups (Smihula, 2008).

The First World War was instigated by the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand int Sarajevo. Ferdinand, the empire’s heir to the throne, was shot by a nationalist student who belonged to an organization (called the Black Hand Movement) that happened to be fighting for the rights of the Bosnians, a minority group. The situation in Bosnia did not improve as the political forces had promised, and the people’s suffering was aggravated. Individuals continued to be abused until the 1990s. A significant number of observers argue that more gains would have been achieved by engaging the emperor and his government than fighting his regime. The political forces had their own selfish intentions, and they utilized an idea of minority rights egotistically (Pentassuglia, 2002).

Minorities in the Ottoman Empire suffered the same fate as those of Austria-Hungary dual monarchy. The dynastic state that was commonly referred to as the Ottoman Empire ruled over a vast region that included the Balkan Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East. As such, there were the groups that regarded themselves as being minorities even when the opposite was the case. The region that the Ottoman Empire was controlling has an interesting history. It has had been under the leadership of several powers including the Byzantine and Roman empires; and in most cases, the political opponents sought to subvert the leadership by claiming to be inspired by the need to redress the mistreatment of minorities. Minorities have continued to suffer to the present day, despite the numerous takeovers. As such, unless the issue of the rights of minorities is addressed in a different manner, success will remain elusive. The territorial integrity of nations will continue to be threatened unjustifiably (Elmo, 2022).


The matters related to the rights of minority groups have become thorny over the recent years. The challenge has prompted the confusion and conflict amongst foreign policy makers and the entire international community due to the lack of a precise definition of rights. Since the Helsinki Final Act, International Covenants on Human Rights, and the rest of the agreements specifying the precise meaning of minority rights, it has become challenging to tell what these rights entail. For instance, while some parties argue that they entail autonomy, there are those who believe that they are more focused to the achievement of statehood. All the same, the two views indicate that they are more of the political lobbying than genuine concerns for the mistreated individuals and groups (Henrard, 2000).

Although the United Nation Charter has been instituted to defend the minority groups’ rights to their self-determination, the principle of self-determination is interpreted differently on various occasions. This means that the issue of minority rights has been addressed inconsistently and in a manner that is influenced by the changes that could be of the social, political, or technological nature. Various ethnic groups have been agitating for statehood under the guise of defending their rights as minorities. These groups have often staged armed struggles claiming that their rights can only be safeguarded if they can be assured of their rights to self-determination. In that case, the right to secede is regarded as being an integral element in the struggle to safeguard the rights of the minority groups (Alter, 1998).

The lack of a precise definition of minority rights has availed a leeway to powerful political forces, both locally and internationally, to apply whatever the idea which they regard as befitting the prevailing circumstances. In that case, just the handful minority groups have achieved their aspirations, while the most of others continue to suffer even as the political takeovers continue to occur. Minority rights have remained elusive since most of the activities have always been inclined towards the political lobbying instead of remaining focused on the quest to safeguard minority rights. In that case, the rights/political lobbying have and will continue threatening the territorial integrity of states, unless the activists stop conducting their activities with contempt (Romero et al., 2004).

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