Minority Rights under International Law towards Participatory Equality

Vallabha Gulati
Advocate, India.

Volume III, Issue V, 2020

Over the last several decades, the question of the principles and practices required to accommodate minority groups in national systems has become a focal point in international discourse. This phenomenon should come as no surprise, given that ethnic homogeneity within a state is becoming a rarity. The protection of minorities is one of the oldest concerns of international law. The root of the minority problem lies in discrimination, oppression, exclusion and denial of identity. These issues pertaining to minorities have been addressed by states individually and as part of larger international society by devising different systems. The protection of minority rights has perhaps never been as relevant as today. This paper thus, seeks to understand the present state of minority rights in international law.

The paper addresses the central question of minority rights discourse as to who is a minority and why it is important to arrive at a consensus for the definition of the term. It then seeks to explore the need of minority rights. It also briefly traces the development of minority rights in international law and outlines its main content in detail. Given the ultimate goals of justice, equality and well-being for all human beings, developing a favourable and constructive legal system for the accommodation of racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic minorities in national and international systems is indispensable. The paper further reviews existing international law and other legal frameworks regarding national minority rights, including discussions of the specific case of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Creating a system of participatory equality entails, for most states, making drastic and fundamental changes to the state’s legal system, public spaces, social and economic structures. Thus, the paper tends to put light on the fact that the realization of full and effective equality for all citizens and residents within a multi-ethnic state requires “participatory equality.” Only when a nation’s legal system secures the rights of all citizens to share equally in all of these domains can that nation fulfils the purpose of international minority rights legal bodies and deliver substantive equality to majority and minority concerns, both in law and practice.