The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) works to address ethnic tensions and to prevent hostilities over national minority issues.
States are obliged to guarantee equal opportunities for everyone to participate in the economic, social, cultural and political life of society. Protecting minority rights also has to be seen as a function of good governance and a way to promote integration. Adequately resolving inter-ethnic issues is in the interest of States and of the majority, not only of the minority. Persons belonging to national minorities whose minority rights are respected, who participate effectively in the political and economic life of the state, and who see that they can achieve their goals through the institutions of the state, are more likely to give their loyalty to the state and to accept their responsibilities to it.
The High Commissioner aims to contain and de-escalate tensions involving national minorities and gets involved in situations where tensions could develop into conflict. The High Commissioner addresses the short-term triggers of inter-ethnic tension or conflict as well as long-term structural concerns. Furthermore, the High Commissioner acts as a “tripwire,” alerting the OSCE when the situation threatens to develop beyond a level which can be contained with the “quiet diplomacy” means at the High Commissioner’s disposal.
A number of OSCE field operations also work in the area of minority rights. Their activities focus on:
- Better integrating national and ethnic minorities into public life
- Ethnic minority protection
- Reforming the education system
- Enhancing equitable representation
- Strengthening the use of minority languages
- Curbing discrimination
- Building confidence among communities
- Fostering regional networks to build sustainable institutions for minority communities and to protect their rights