Astrid Thors, Organization for Security and Co operation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner on National Minorities, spoke about security challenges for the OSCE region at an April 29, 2016 meeting, “Prevention in Practice.”
The chief European representative for national minorities, Thors said her office was tested by the large migrant crisis in Europe.
“Migration flows bring nationalism to the fore,” she explained. Such attitudes “undermine the sense of belonging migrants so desperately need,” she said.
Points of contention with national societies have been border management and an uncoordinated response to the massive influx of migrants, she said.
Thors also spoke of her relationship with the UN, emphasizing that the OSCE can be a vital regional partner for the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights Up Front” agenda by providing early warning and intervention to prevent tensions related to national minorities from escalating into conflicts. “Our methods of taking early action, based in a human rights approach, can and should be supported,” she said.
Thors said she had hope that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted this September, “will ensure universal access to justice.”
There is work to be done to achieve minority rights, even in those societies where they are nominally protected by legislation, she explained. While these protections are an important first step, “having ‘equal opportunity’ language in national legislation does not ensure the integration of, or the civic rights of, minorities,” she said.
The event was held as part of IPI’s Global Leaders Series.
Warren Hoge, IPI Senior Adviser for External Relations, moderated the conversation.