A minority refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. Differences are concerned with specific characteristics or practices, such as ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity. A systematic approach of international protection of minority rights meant to protect group rights of homogenous populations within States began after the First World War. In later times the focus was on universal rights of individuals rather than on minorities.
All States have one or more minority groups within their national territories, characterized by their own national, ethnic, racial, linguistic, sexual or religious identity, which differs from that of the majority population.
A systematic approach of international protection of minority rights began after the First World War by the League of Nations. The minority protection system was meant to protect group rights of homogeneous populations within States, to further the idea of self-determination. After the Second World War the United Nations the focus was on universal rights of individuals, rather than on minorities. The end of the Cold War, and the many conflicts with ethnic dimensions marked the revival of the protection of minority rights. The result was the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities by the UN General Assembly in 1992. The 21st century faces the challenge to achieve a peaceful coexistence within the multicultural nations of the world.
This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for legal research on Minorities. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject headings (keywords) Minorities, Ethnic Minorities, Religious Minorities, Linguistic Minorities, and Sexual Minorities are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.
Saikia, P. and A. Basu Ray Chaudhury, India and Myanmar Borderlands: Ethnicity, Security and Connectivity, 2020
Sources of international law
- Capotorti, F., Study on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, U.N. Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/384/Rev.1.
- Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues
- United Nations Guide for Minorities
Council of Europe
- Council of Europe Framework Convention For the Protection of National Minorities
- Council of Europe Thematic Compilation of Commentaries of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention
- Council of Europe Thematic Commentaries of the Advisory Committee
- European Charter of Local Self-Government 1985 / ETS No. 122 (CoE)
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages 1992 / ETS No. 148 (CoE)
- European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. (CoE) The relevant article for minorities is article 14, regarding non-discrimination;, technically, this article must be claimed together with one of the other articles of the Convention
- The European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation 1980 / ETS No. 106 (CoE) Monitored by the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities in Europe, it has also been important for minority rights protection, see Malloy.
- Venice Commission, Report on the Preferential Treatment of National Minorities by their Kin-State, 2001.
- Venice Commission, Report on Non-Citizens and Minority Rights, 2006
- Venice Commission, Report on Dual Voting for Persons Belonging to National Minorities, 2008.
- Venice Commission, Compilation of Venice Commission Opinions and Reports Concerning the Protection of National Minorities, 2018 (CDL-PI(2018)002)
- The Copenhagen 'Criteria' 1993. Accession conditions for applicant states.
- The Stability Pact 1995. Most notably, it was designed to offer a framework in which Central and Eastern European countries might attempt to resolve border disputes, address problems of minorities and develop relations with Russia in a post-Soviet era.
- The Amsterdam Treaty 1997 (article 13) and the Equality Directives (Race Directive or Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 and the Equal Employment or Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000)
- The Charter of Fundamental Rights 2000 (article 21; EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights 2002-2005)
- The Reformed Lisbon Treaty 2009 (article 2)
- EU Report on Minimum Standards for Minorities in the EU (2018/2036(INI)) - 24-18-2018.
OSCE - National Minorities
- Publications by the OSCE
- OSCE - National Minorities
- The High Commissioner on National Minorities (OSCE) 1992.
OSCE Recommendations and/or guidelines regarding national minorities:
- The Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities, 1996.
-The Oslo Recommendations Regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities & Explanatory Note, 1998.
- The Lund Recommendations on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life & Explanatory Note, 1999.
- Guidelines on the Use of Minority Languages in the Broadcast Media, 2003.
- Recommendations on Policing in Multi-Ethnic Societies, 2006.
- The Bolzano/Bozen Recommendations on National Minorities in Inter-State Relations, 2008.
- The Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies, 2012.
- The Graz Recommendations on Access to Justice and National Minorities, 2017.
- The Tallinn Guidelines on National Minorities and the Media in the Digital Age, 2019.
- The Copenhagen Document 1990 (CSCE, now OSCE)). Included for the first time in European history very specific and directional provisions on the protection of national minorities. Not legally binding.
OSCE - Roma and Sinti
- OSCE - Roma and Sinti
- OSCE - Roma and Sinti Publications
- Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area, 2003.
- Police and Roma and Sinti: Good Practices in Building Trust and Understanding, 2010.
- Summary Report of the Expert Meeting: Police and Roma and Sinti - Current Challenges and Good Practices in Building Trust and Understanding, 2014.
- ODIHR and Roma and Sinti issues: Factsheet, 2015.
UN Declarations and Resolutions
The resolutions and decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council may provide valuable information on minority issues. Although they cannot themselves constitute international law or serve as conclusive evidence of a rule of customary law, such resolutions do have value in providing evidence of existing or emerging law. This point of view has been acknowledged by the International Law Commission.
As every Member State has been recognized and has a vote in the UN General Assembly, finding General Assembly resolutions that passed unanimously or near-unanimously may serve as an excellent starting point in the legal research process. Pay attention to the language of the resolution. Those with firm obligations versus those that are merely aspirational or advisory in nature are more likely to be considered valuable as evidence of customary international law.
→ Official Document System Search. ODS is the UN's Official Document System. You can search for UN declarations, resolutions and other documents by keywords, then narrow your search.
- Arp, B., International Norms and Standards for the Protection of National Minorities: Bilateral and Multilateral Texts with Commentary, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2008.
- Cordell, K., Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict, London, Routledge, 2011.
- Hofmann, R. (et al.)(eds.), Rahmenübereinkommen zum Schutz Nationaler Minderheiten, Handkommentar, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2015.
- Hofmann, R. (et al.) (eds.), The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities : A Commentary, Leiden, Brill, 2018.
- Khan, K.A., Minorities and International Law, New Delhi, Mittal Publications, 2016.
- Khan, B.U. and M.M. Rahman, Protection of Minorities: Regimes, Norms and Issues in South Asia, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.
- Malloy, T.H. and U. Caruso (eds.), Minorities, Their Rights, and the Monitoring of the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities: Essays in Honour of Rainer Hofmann, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2013.
- Merino, N., Minorities and the Law, Chicago, Greenhaven Press, 2015.
- Ratuva, S., The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity, Singapore,Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.
- Shahabuddin, M., Ethnicity and International Law : Histories, Politics and Practices, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
- Wei, H.H., A Dialogical Concept of Minority Rights, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.
- Weller, M. (ed.), Universal Minority Rights: a Commentary on the Jurisprudence of International Courts and Treaty Bodies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.
- Weller, M. (ed.), The Rights of Minorities in Europe: a Commentary on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.
Selected books and articles
- Agarin, T., and K. Cordell, Minority Rights and Minority Protection in Europe, London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
- Åhrén, M., Indigenous Peoples' Status in the International Legal System, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.
- Bretcher, F., Protecting the Religious Freedom of new Minorities in International Law, Protecting the Religious Freedom of New Minorities in International Law, Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge, 2020.
- Caruso, U., and R. Hofmann (eds.), The United Nations Declaration on Minorities : An Academic Account on the Occasion of its 20th Anniversary (1992-2012), Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.
- Di Blase, A., Vadi, S.S., The Inherent Rights of Indigenous Peoples in International Law, Roma, Roma-Tre Press, 2020.
- Grand, P. (ed.), Minority and Indigenous Trends 2020. Focus on Technology, London, Minority Rights Group International, 2020
- Marko, J., and S. Constantin (eds.), Human and Minority Rights Protection by Multiple Diversity Governance : History, Law, Ideology and Politics in European Perspective, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY, Routledge, 2019.
- McDougall, G., The First United Nations Mandate on Minority Issues, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.
- Merino, N. (ed.), Minorities and the Law, Greenhaven Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
- Owusa-Bempah, A., Race, Ethnicity, Crime, and Justice : An International Dilemma, New York, Routledge, 2021.
- Schliemann Radbruch, C., Das Völkerrechtliche Institut der Autonomie Innerstaatlicher Gruppen, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2017.
- Socha, P., Definitionen und Anerkennung Substaatlicher Gruppen im Völkerrecht: Eine Untersuchung der Rechtlichen Anwendung völkerrechtlicher Konstruktionen Substaatlicher Kollektiver Identitäten und Aktueller Entwicklungen im Intergovernmental Committee der WIPO, Göttingen, Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2017.
- Swepston, L., The Foundations of Modern International Law on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples : The Preparatory Documents of The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, and Its Development Through Supervision, Vol 1, Leiden, Brill, 2015.
- Swepston, L., The Foundations of Modern International Law on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples : The Preparatory Documents of The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, and Its Development Through Supervision, Vol 2, Leiden, Brill, 2018.
- Thürer, D., International Protection of Minorities : Challenges in Practice and Doctrine, Zurich, Schulthess, 2014.
- Udogu, E. Ike, and S. Ghatak, Human Rights Dilemmas in the Developing World: the Case of Marginalized Populations at Risk, Lanham,Lexington Books, 2018.
- Watson, I., Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of International Law, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge, 2018.
- Wang, L, Self-determination and Minority Rights in China, Leiden; Boston, Brill/Nijhoff, 2019.
- Alfredsson, G., "Minority Rights and the UN", in U. Caruso and R. Hofmann (eds.), The United Nations Declaration on Minorities : An Academic Account on the Occasion of its 20th Anniversary (1992-2012), Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015. pp. 19-45.
- Barten, U., "What’s In a Name? Peoples, Minorities, Indigenous Peoples, Tribal Groups and Nations", JEMIE: Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 14 (2015), No. 1, pp. 1-25.
- Craig, E., Who Are the Minorities - The Role of the Right to Self-Identify Within the European Minority Rights Framework, In: JEMIE : Journal of Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe; Vol. 15, No. 2 (2016), pp. 6-30.
- Ducoulombier, P., "The Protection of Sexual Minorities in European Law", in F. Ippolito and S. Iglesias Sánchez, Protecting Vulnerable Groups : The European Human Rights Framework, Oxford, Hart Publishing, pp. 201-223.
- Eide, A., "United Nations Standard-setting Regarding Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples", Europa Ethnica, 71 (2014), No. 3/4, pp. 51-61.
- Ferrari, H., Partnership For All? Impact of Eastern Partnership on Minorities, Minority Rights Group International, 9 June 2014. External link
- Finnegan, C., "The Uyghur Minority in China: A Case Study of Cultural Genocide, Minority Rights and the Insufficiency of the International Legal Framework in Preventing State-Imposed Extinction", Laws, Vol. 9 (2020), No. 1, pp.1-20.
- Girmay, A., "Constitutional Perils of Ethiopia‘s Ethnic Federalism: Insights from Self-Determination Principle in Case of 'Kunama‘ Ethnic Minority," International Journal of Political Science and Development, 3(2015), No. 4, pp. 166-173, april 2015. External link
- Garrone, P., and S.G. Menghini,"Minority Rights Questions Addressed by the Venice Commission in 2010", European Yearbook of Minority Issues, Vol. 9 (2010), pp. 589-602. [E-article]
- Grammatikas, V., "Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Minorities", in: International Law Association, Reconceptualising the Rule of Law in Global Governance, Resources, Investment and Trade, 2016, pp. 89-104.
- The Institute for International Law and Human Rights, Minority Rights Group International, Between the Millstones: Iraq's Minorities Since the Fall of Mosul,Minority Rights Group International, 27 February 2015. External link
- King, E., and C. Samii, "Minorities and Mistrust : On the Adoption of Ethnic Recognition to Manage Conflict", Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 55 (2018), No. 3, p. 289-304.
- Kuwali, D and G. Alfredsson, "The Responsibility to Protect Minorities: The Question of Protection by Kin-States", Europa Ethnica, 71 (2014), No. 3/4, pp. 62-68.
- Mihandoost, F., amd B. Babajanian, "The Rights of Minorities in International Law", Journal of Politics and Law, Vol. 9 (2016), No. 6, pp. 15-19. External link
- Nyambura, C., Looma Ooyaan - No One Cries for Them: The Situation Facing Somalia's Minority Women, Minority Rights Group International and IIDA, 30 January 2015. External link
- Oeter, S., Conventions on the Protection of National Minorities, In: Schmahl, S., and M. Breuer (eds.), The Council of Europe : Its Law and Policies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 542-571.
- Papoutsi, E., "Minorities under International Law: How protected they are?", Journal of Social Welfare and Human Rights, Vol. 2 (2014), No. 1, pp. 305-345. [E-article].
- Peroni, L., Minorities before the European Court of Human Rights : Democratic Pluralism unfolded, in J. Boulden and W. Kymlicka (eds.), International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 25-50.
- Rajji, R. el, The Leaves of One Tree: Religious Minorities in Lebanon, Minority Rights Group International, 10 December 2014. External link
- Raoof, A., Still Dispossessed: The Battle of the Chagos Islanders to Return to Their Homeland, Minority Rights Group International, 26 March 2014. External link
- Rehman, J., "Adjudicating on the Rights of Sexual Minorities in the Muslim World", in J.A. Green and C.P.M. Waters (eds.), Adjudicating International Human Rights : Essays in Honour of Sandy Ghandhi, Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015, pp. 119-147.
- Scantamburlo, M. and G. Pallaver, Between Secession and “Full Autonomy”: Party Competition over Self-Determination in South Tyrol, EvoNat Research Brief, No. 3, November 2015. External link.
- Shaw, M. N., "The Definition of Minorities in International Law", in: Y. Dinstein, and F. Domb (eds.), The Progression of International Law, Leiden, Brill, 2011, pp. 45-72. [E-article].
- Uerpmann-Wittzack, R., "Borders and Ethnic Divides", in Journées Franco-Allemandes, 10 (2014), Louvain La Neuve, Droit des Frontières Internationales : Journées Franco-Allemandes, Louvain-La-Neuve, Paris, Pedone, 2016, pp. 261-273.
- Varennes, F. De, "R2P and the Protection of Minorities", in P. Hilpold (ed.), Responsibility To Protect : A New Paradigm of International Law?, Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015, pp. 274-292.
- Vezbergaite, I., Self-Determination of the Kurdish People: Undermining the Unity of the «Turkish Nation»?, IFF, Working Paper Online, No. 9, July 2015. External link
- Wang Linzhu, "The Identification of Minorities in China", Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, 16 (2015), No. 2, pp. 1-21.
- Xanthaki, A., "Indigenous Rights at the United Nations: Their Impact on International Human Rights Standards", Europa Ethnica, Vol. 71 (2014), No. 3/4, pp. 69-77.
Periodicals, Serial Publications
- Bedrohte Völker
- Ethnies: Droits de l'Homme et Peuples Autochtones.
- Europa Ethnica
- Europäisches Journal für Minderheitenfragen
- European Autonomy and Diversity Papers External link
- European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) Working Papers
- European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) Report
- European Yearbook of Minority Issues
- Indigenous Law Journal
- Indigenous Law Bulletin
- International Annual Report (State of the World's Minorities) External link
- International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
- Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs
- JEMIE: Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
- Der Minderheitenschutz im Östlichen Europa
- Minorités linguistiques et société / Linguistic Minorities and Society (Canada) External link
- Pogrom : Zeitschrift Für Bedrohte Völker
- Bedrohte Völker
- Scholar : St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issues
- Tribal Law Journal