The High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) initiates and develops co-operation with other international organizations and institutions. This is a practical way, through international co-operation, to carry out the HCNM's work on a number of fronts. It helps to:
This international co-operation is pursued and strengthened through a variety of avenues, including the exchange of information, mutual consultations, co-ordination of certain activities and the organization of joint activities.
The High Commissioner maintains contact with the United Nations Secretariats in New York and Geneva, as well as with specialized UN bodies, such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Development Programme.
In an effort to develop conflict prevention structures and tools, the UN Secretariat has expressed interest in drawing on the experience of the HCNM, notably in developing practical tools - including mediation support. In this context, the High Commissioner has regular contacts with the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues and the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
Co-operation with the UN Working Group on Minorities has also continued for over a decade and will be strengthened once the major review of this and other "special procedures" established by the UN Commission on Human Rights has been completed by the Human Rights Council.
In other instances, the High Commissioner seeks the support of major international donor organizations, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. These institutions can provide substantial resources to sustain programmes in fields identified by the High Commissioner as important from a conflict prevention perspective.
The High Commissioner has developed close co-operation with the Council of Europe (CoE) over the years, not least with the CoE Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ACFC) and the Venice Commission.
Co-operation between the OSCE and the CoE has further deepened and broadened since both organizations signed a political agreement in 2005 to enhance co-operation. National minority issues is one of the agreement's four priority areas and the High Commissioner was appointed OSCE focal point for minority issues within this framework.
The HCNM is in regular contact with relevant structures of the CoE and its Secretariat, notably:
Over the past years, the High Commissioner has also developed close links with the European Commission, in particular with the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and the Directorate-General for Enlargement.
The 1993 Copenhagen Criteria, which lays down the EU membership conditions, requires that any State wanting to join the EU must ensure the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities.
Against this backdrop, the European Commission has drawn on the expertise of the High Commissioner in the area of minority standards and minority rights. The HCNM is seen as an instrument for assisting governments of candidate countries to bring their domestic policy, legislation and practice in line with international standards and best practice to promote respect for and protection of the rights of members of national minorities.
Civil society plays a key role in efforts aimed at preventing conflict and protecting human rights. In this context, the High Commissioner co-operates closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other members of civil society in the countries where the HCNM is engaged.
Civil society is both a rich source of information on the current situation and developments in a particular country, and a partner in promoting policy and implementing projects aimed at conflict prevention. The High Commissioner's engagement with civil society also includes co-operation with a number of international NGOs.
- 'Civil Society Contributions to the Work of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities' by C. Altenhoener, and F. Palermo in: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights (IJMGR), 2011, Vol 18 (2), p.201.