On behalf of the UK and Canada, Ambassador Neil Holland welcomes the ongoing work of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and urges him to continue this vital work.

Neil Holland

Thank you, Mr Chair. I’m delivering this statement on behalf of the UK and Canada. Welcome, High Commissioner, dear Kairat, back to the Permanent Council. Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the High Commissioner on National Minorities and for the extension of your appointment for a further 9 months. We thank you once again for your willingness to continue this important role at such a late stage. As we said during last week’s Ministerial Council, it’s regretful that this extension is shorter than ideal, but had to be accepted as an exceptional, temporary measure.  

High Commissioner, thank you for updating us today on your report and for your address. We are grateful for the range of efforts undertaken by your Office, including your visits to, and dialogues with, many participating States. We support your mandate and your team’s work in promoting human rights for all, including those belonging to national minorities across the OSCE region. This is a crucial part of sustainable security, a vital aspect of conflict prevention and early warning, and a key element of peaceful resolution.  

Your report sets out that Ukraine remains at the top of your agenda.  We welcome that and urge you to continue to prioritise this work. Civilians in Ukraine must be protected, including national minorities. Let us not forget that, at the same time as having to fight a war, Ukraine has made – and is making – progress on inclusivity and diversity. We echo your calls for a peaceful resolution to the war which must be in line with the principles of the UN Charter, and for the protection of all national minorities in the region. The best way to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all people in Ukraine including minorities, is for Russia to withdraw its troops from the whole of Ukraine.  

Russia must respect international law, and that includes minority rights, outside of and inside Russia. Ethnic minorities within Russia have been disproportionately targeted by mobilisation.   

Russia must cooperate and grant access to your team to areas temporarily under its control.   

Russia must respect the rights of minority groups. And we deplore Russia’s attempts to undermine Ukrainian identity in the four oblasts it illegally claims to have annexed, as well as its targeting of Crimean Tatars in illegally annexed Crimea.   

We appreciate your work across the OSCE region including in Albania, Moldova, Central Asia and Northern Europe, and the continued cooperation between participating States and your office. We welcome your assistance to Georgia, particularly in the face of continued Russian hybrid aggression.   

We would particularly like to commend and draw attention to the following areas of your work: 

  • your support on multilingual education and with national minority youth. 
  • your thematic work including alongside ODIHR to address statelessness. 
  • the attention you have given to the intersectionality of gender and national minorities, and your acknowledgment that women with a minority background face unique and multiple challenges.  
  • women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in all aspects of public life, including in peace and security.   

And on this last area, we were pleased to hear that you continue to explore these issues including through research, discussions, and engagements. We would encourage further work in this area and look forward to hearing reports of future progress on this topic.  

In conclusion, High Commissioner, we are strong supporters of your institution and your work. We wish you and your team all the best over the coming months. Thank you.

Published 7 December 2023