High Commissioner on National Minorities


The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) was established in 1992 and is situated in The Hague, in The Netherlands. Its work cuts across the three dimensions of the OSCE. 


Role

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Kairat Abdrakhmanov, 24 December 2020, The Hague. (OSCE/Arnaud Roelofsz)

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Kairat Abdrakhmanov, 24 December 2020, The Hague. (OSCE/Arnaud Roelofsz)

The role of the HCNM is to provide early warning and early action to prevent and address potential tensions involving national minority issues that have the potential to develop into a conflict in the OSCE area – in short to prevent conflict. This work of the HCNM includes promoting adherence to international and regional minority rights standards and commitments, and in some cases facilitating dialogue between persons belonging to minority groups and governments or other institutions and organizations representing majorities. The HCNM, acting as an impartial third party, advocates and negotiates at the highest political level. 


The HCNM has been helping to boost the capacity of minorities to broadcast news in their native language, one of many projects aimed at increasing the participation of national minorities in the life of wider society.

The HCNM has been helping to boost the capacity of minorities to broadcast news in their native language, one of many projects aimed at increasing the participation of national minorities in the life of wider society.

The main tool of the HCNM is “quiet” diplomacy and providing recommendations to governments in confidence; facilitating dialogue between majorities and minorities and between states; issuing a formal early warning; developing thematic recommendations and guidelines; supporting pilot projects to demonstrate how to implement his/her recommendations.


The HCNM has been helping to boost the capacity of minorities to broadcast news in their native language, one of many projects aimed at increasing the participation of national minorities in the life of wider society. (OSCE Factsheet on HCNM)


The HCNM is required to assess information on the issues affecting national minority issues, stability and conflict prevention, including through visits to gather first-hand information from all relevant stakeholders. He/she decides when and where to travel in response to incidents that might produce greater violence or an escalation of attention. This flexibility makes the HCNM a unique role pioneered by the OSCE. 


The High Commissioner does not require prior approval of his/her activities from any central institution of the OSCE, and may seek to enter any pS, when she/he believes that the situation can benefit from HCNM involvement. Although she/he typically coordinates the visit with the government involved, she/he does not need their formal approval to address interethnic tensions or conflict.


Limitations


The High Commissioner’s involvement is subject to limitations. The situation must include: 


  • Persons belonging to national minorities

  • Potential for conflict emanating from minority issues

  • Potential to affect stability within a state, inter-state relations or regional security


The situation must not involve: 


  • Groups actively engaged in terrorist activities

  • Ethnic conflicts that are engaged in open violence

Collaboration


In many cases OSCE field operations and the office of the High Commissioner have collaborated closely in their effort to resolve underlying tensions involving the rights of persons belonging to minorities.