Minorities often 'the poorest of the poor,' says UN expert

U.N. Human Rights Council hears of 'deficiencies' in development goals

U.N. Human Rights Council hears of 'deficiencies' in development goals

GENEVA - A U.N. expert has told the body’s Human Rights Council in Geneva that greater international and domestic attention should be paid to the plight of disadvantaged minorities "who are frequently the poorest of the poor."

U.N. Independent Expert on Minority Issues Rita Izsak said on Wednesday: "Millions of people belonging to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities worldwide are trapped in a cycle of discrimination, exclusion, poverty and underdevelopment from which they cannot break free without targeted attention being given to their situations."

Presenting a new report, Izsak claimed that such minorities were often among the last to be targeted by development strategies and singled out this lack of attention to minorities as one of the most serious deficiencies of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals.

"The rise of inequality has severely undermined the achievements in many states,” Izsak warned. “Future development goals must include dedicated attention to minorities to contribute to closing the inequality gap.”

Izsak reminded the Human Rights Council that growing inequalities, together with poor governance, seriously endanger the peace and stability of societies. She noted the impact on minorities of new and ongoing conflicts, including in the Central African Republic, Myanmar, South Sudan and Syria, and pointed to other factors, including the impact of the global financial crisis, on minorities.

The report presents data from various regions highlighting the disproportionate impact of poverty on minorities. In education, in 2009, of the world’s 101 million children out of school, an estimated 50–70 percent was from minorities or indigenous peoples. People belonging to minorities frequently die younger, suffer from higher rates of disease and struggle more to access health services compared to the rest of the population.

"Disadvantaged minorities experience greater food insecurity and often lack adequate water and hygiene facilities or constant and affordable energy," Izsak warned. "When natural disaster strikes reports suggest that minorities may be more deeply affected, have weaker coping strategies, and have sometimes been neglected or excluded from humanitarian responses."

"It is crucial to establish specific targets for states on the inclusion of minorities and specific indicators upon which to measure progress within the framework of a strong equality-focused post-2015 development goal or goals," Izsak said.

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