Today the ECMI EPP team kicked off the first part of the final conference within the framework of the project. The event featured formal welcomes, keynote speeches and discussion sessions, and concluded with the presentation of the ECMI EPP results.
The event started with welcoming notes from Prof. Tove Malloy (ECMI Director), Ms. Aksana Filipishyna (Representative of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights for observance of the rights of the child, non-discrimination and gender equality) and Mr. Andriy Yurash (Head of the Department on Religious Affairs and Nationalities, Ministry of Culture of Ukraine). “This project proves that we have a stable group of human right defenders who are not indifferent to the issue of minority rights”, emphasized Ms. Filipishyna.
Both Mr. Yurash and Ms. Filipishyna joined the opinion of Prof. Malloy that concluding this three-year project is also the beginning of a new phase for cooperation and promotion of minority rights. “Every end means the beginning of something new. Without endings we would not be able to draw conclusions. I hope the conclusions drawn from this project will be the basis of new beginnings,” stated Mr. Yurash. He also thanked the ECMI for active engagement in the region, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation in Ukraine. “We would not be able to do it with our forces only. Due to continuous cooperation was it manageable.”
The first day of the event featured three keynotes addressing the topic of the conference from different angles. Mr. Boriss Cilevics discussed the effectiveness of international human rights mechanisms in minority protection and combating discrimination. While reviewing mechanisms, Mr. Cilevics argued that both the standard-setting process and the effectiveness of the monitoring mechanisms significantly depend on the political situation and that the usage of these mechanisms requires an understanding of their specifics, certain efforts, qualifications, and skills.
The second keynote speech on standard-setting by international organizations in the field of rights of national minorities was delivered by Prof. Prof. Rainer Hofmann. He discussed the cases of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine and critically analyzed mechanisms on standard-setting by international organisations in the field of the rights of national minorities, focusing on the Council of Europe area.
“Does the Eastern Partnership make a difference?” asked Prof. Dr. Peter Van Elsuwege during his talk on “Minority Protection in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood”. He presented how the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) contributes to the protection of minorities in countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus.
The event featured discussion sessions where the guests also raised some of the pressing issues that they face with regard to minority rights, including language policies, xenophobia and repatriation. They also shared their thoughts on project results, expressing their willingness for further continuation of similar initiatives in the region. “Because of their diversity and difference of problematic issues, it is quite challenging to analyze these three countries under the same scope and within the same initiative. In Belarus we have developments in the field of education, but there are a number of challenges that minorities face, including the lack of general support from either state or from the international community,” shared Ms. Alena Ignatovitch, Associate Professor at the Youth Policy and Socio-Cultural Communications Department of the Republican Institute of Higher Education in Belarus and one of the participants of the event. “This event serves exactly this purpose, to discuss all the issues, to give the people a platform to speak out their concerns. I find it very useful and interesting, especially with such diversity within the audience: people from different countries, minority groups and organisations”.
The first day of the event concluded with the presentation of the ECMI Eastern Partnership Programme Results. The presenters included the members of the EPP working groups in all three target countries:
- Iulia Semionova (Chairman of the “Association of Russian-speaking journalists” in Moldova)
- Andrey Nikolaev (Bulgarian Minority NGO “Rodoliubets”, Moldova)
- Andrei Tsikhamirau (PhD candidate of the Institute of History of Science, Polish Academy of Science, Historian and Culturologist, Belarus)
- Yuri Bubnov (Head of Humanities Department, Mahiliou University of Food Technologies, Belarus)
- Yaroslava Reznikova (Head of nationalities and religions sections, Deputy Chief of the Department of Culture, Tourism, Nationalities and Religions at the Odesa State Administration, Ukraine).
The project results are presented in the final reports (the reports will be uploaded online after the event).
The keynote speeches were streamed LIVE and are available to watch online on ECMI Facebook Page.