Thank you Madam Chair. Ambassador Abdrakhmanov, the UK welcomes you to the Permanent Council for the first time. We congratulate you on your appointment and thank you for your comprehensive report.

The UK is a strong supporter of your institution, which plays a vital role in early warning and conflict prevention in the case of tensions related to national minorities. We fully support your mandate and your institution’s autonomy. We encourage all participating States to fully cooperate with you and your staff to enable you to fulfil this mandate.

We were pleased to hear that in many of your meetings thus far you have encountered a high degree of constructive cooperation and trust in your efforts to resolve national minority issues within and between participating States. As is so often the case in the OSCE, in order to realise the full potential of your institution, participating States must demonstrate political will and good faith engagement with your efforts.

This means not only engaging with you to raise concerns about the actions of others, but also engaging positively with your requests for visits and suggestions and recommendations stemming from them. While we acknowledge that challenges to travel remain due to the ongoing pandemic, it is important that you are able to travel freely throughout the entire OSCE region, including to areas affected by conflict and illegal annexation.

Your report makes clear the broad scope of activities undertaken by your office and the extent to which you have helped participating States to enhance their security through ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights by all people, including those belonging to national minorities.

We are grateful for your reflections on the continued impact of COVID-19 on people belonging to national minorities and we agree with you that the set of recommendations on “streamlining diversity: COVID-19 measures that support social cohesion” remain relevant and timely. You highlighted the particular socio-economic challenges the pandemic posed for people belonging to national minorities and we were interested to hear about the expert research study you initiated in December. In particular, we were pleased to hear that this study would include an emphasis on gender and that you have held internal discussions on the socio-economic participation of women belonging to national minorities.

We also very much welcome your intention to conduct comprehensive research into the intersectionality between gender and national minorities this year. Women belonging to national minorities can often face multiple and compounding forms of discrimination and it will be highly beneficial to gain a better understanding of the obstacles that they face in ensuring full and equal enjoyment of human rights and realising their full potential.

Taking into account the needs and circumstances of different genders will also help us achieve more effective conflict prevention and more effective programme interventions. We were therefore grateful for the information you provided about the positive impact that your office’s support to the Central Asian Education Programme has had on enrolment of girls from national minorities in higher education programmes and the decrease in incidence of early marriage among girls attending schools participating in the programme.

We continue to value the thematic guidelines produced by your office, as well as your events and programmatic work to raise awareness of these guidelines. We look forward to marking with you next week the anniversary of the 1996 Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities. Your focus on digital technologies seems particularly timely and we noted from your report how digitalisation in some of your projects has proved particularly valuable in helping national minority pupils continue their education online during the pandemic. We also appreciate the opportunity to discuss the results of systematic mainstreaming of gender into the recommendations on policing in multi-ethnic societies on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of those recommendations in Autumn.

In conclusion, allow me to thank you and your dedicated team for all your work and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

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    OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities: UK response

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