The World Uyghur Congress Participates in the 2010 UN Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva, Switzerland

WUC, 16 December 2010

Dolkun Isa, Secretary-General for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), and Kathy Polias, WUC’s United Nations Liaison, represented the organization at the 2010 Forum on Minority Issues from December 14-15, 2010 at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.  The WUC participated as part of the delegation organized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), of which the WUC is a member.

The website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights states that the aims of the Forum on Minority Issues are to provide a platform for advancing dialogue and cooperation on issues relevant to ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities and to provide thematic contributions and expertise to enhance the work of the UN Independent Expert on minority issues.  The Forum is geared toward identifying and evaluating best practices, challenges, opportunities, and initiatives for the further implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities.  See the UN Forum on Minority Issues’ website at:  www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/minority/forum.htm.

The theme and focus of this year’s Forum was the effective participation of minorities in economic life.  On December 15th, Ms. Polias delivered an intervention/statement on behalf of the World Uyghur Congress under Agenda Item IX – “Concrete steps to advance and build capacity of minorities effectively in economic life.” See the written version of statement here .

The World Uyghur Congress focused its intervention on a reference in the UN Secretariat’s “Draft Recommendations of minorities and effective participation in economic life” for the Forum that noted that there are “many cases of misguided efforts to increase the economic participation of minorities, including the pursuit of forced migration or displacement, and resettlement of dominant groups to ‘develop’ minority regions.”  The World Uyghur Congress elaborated on the problems with these types of development strategies and used the experiences of the Uyghur people of East Turkestan (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China), as well as the Montagnard (Degar) people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, as examples.  After explaining why governments should abandon these particular development strategies, the World Uyghur Congress urged governments to instead design development programs in minority areas in close consultation with and in partnership with the local peoples and to expand industries and trades in which the local peoples have traditionally been engaged.  In the written version of the statement submitted to OHCHR, the WUC also noted that for new industries that are introduced to minority areas, governments should invest in training the local peoples in the required skills rather than bringing people from outside those regions to work in those industries.

The delegation of the People’s Republic of China to the Forum on Minority Issues verbally replied to the statement of the World Uyghur Congress and claimed that Uyghurs’ employment/labor rights are protected and respected.

The U.S.-based Montagnard Foundation (www.montagnard-foundation.org) also discussed the Uyghurs’ plight in its oral statement under Agenda Item 3 – “Sustainable Livelihoods” on December 14th.  The Montagnard Foundation asked the UN to continue its focus on safeguarding mother-tongue education and noted that “[i]n East Turkestan, the Chinese government is endangering the survival of the Uyghur language with a policy that is making Mandarin the medium of instruction in all schools.”

Also, on December 14, 2010, Kathy Polias was a speaker at a side/parallel event entitled, “Minorities and Natural Resources: Promoting the Rights of Minorities in the Development and Management of Natural Resources” organized and sponsored by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and Minority Rights Group International.  Ms. Polias gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “Uyghurs of East Turkestan:  An Impoverished People in the Midst of Natural Wealth.”