Insight: Is the Cost of Globalization the Extinction of Ancestral Identities?

This is an insight written by Esther Kaufman on the recent 1oth UN Session of the Forum on Minorities. 

Is the cost of globalization the extinction of ancestral identities? 

The UN held the 10th session of the Forum on Minorities from the 28th of November to the 1st of December 2017. This conference welcomed organizations from across the world to speak as representatives of their respective minority nations, and to air their concerns to the International community.

The topic of this year’s forum was “Minority youth: towards diverse and inclusive societies” and focused on engaging minority youths and civil society actors in discussion with state actors. The three-day conference was separated into five agenda items, including; 1. the opening meeting; 2. inclusive education to empower minority youth; 3. participation of minority youth in public life; 4. minority Youth and the media in the digital age: acceptance and opportunity; and 5. minority youth: agents of change for peace and stability. Between these items, attending civil societies actors were welcome to hold and attend side-events focused on challenges that pertained to the year’s theme.

It is important to note that this event is the only forum organized by the UN that does not require ECOSOC status to participate, a status that may only be granted by States.

Theory v. Reality

In theory, this Forum could be enough for minorities, the international community can hear the blatant violations of international charters by state actors and pressure these actors to uphold the charters, which they have signed and pledged support for.

The reality is not so simple. The UN is an entity created by the member states, and maintained for the peaceful preservation of states. It survives because member states grant it recognition and jurisdiction. If too much pressure is exerted on the states, or simply on the wrong states, its very existence is likely to unravel.

For this reason, states have several safety mechanisms in place. Firstly, the Forum chooses the years topics for the discussion items. Representatives of minority organizations are than granted two minutes to state their concerns. As one representative said, “When Iranian youth are awaiting execution, it is difficult to speak to social media limitations facing youth.”

States are also allowed to interrupt speakers with a Point of Information. The most aggressive use of this right this year was by the Ethiopian state. The Ethiopian representative used his time to accuse the speaker, who spoke to the violence and discrimination youth face in Ethiopia from the state, of being a member of a terrorist organization and urged the testimony to be discredited.

The moderator noted that all organizations are meticulously screened by the forum secretariat before being granted accreditation. Although it is clear that those with any violent associations are denied access to the Forum, the speaker remained disrupted by the comments of the member state representative.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: Government Organized Non- Government Organizations (GONGO)

These are funded by the government and spoken of openly and with full confidence by other civil society actors. These GONGO’s push a peaceful narrative of State policy that is often used to discriminate and attack minorities.

An example of the work of a GONGO was highlighted by the presentation of a Uyghur from East Turkestan region of China spoke to his personal experience with the brutal enforcement of the Chinese “Bilingual Policy” that has banned the Uyghur language and enforced violence and arrests for those caught speaking or teaching the language. A GONGO responded to say that the “bilingual program” serves to assist the youth of today’s generation assimilate to a more global network.

Is the cost of globalization the extinction of ancestral identities?   

Our global system functions as a network of states, and international forums have provided essential platforms for diplomatic peace talks. Minorities, too, are asking to live and work within our system, not against it. Why do they face brutal retaliation?

The UN was born from the ashes of the holocaust.  Yet everyday minorities across the world continue to endure discrimination and fear of persecution. If the UN is to promote and secure the peace it was created to do, it should open its eyes to the reality of its methodology. Trusting the theoretical intentions of its work is simply not enough.

About the Author:

Esther Kaufman is recent Economics graduate from the University of Maryland with a minor in Global Terrorism Studies.  She is interested in the effects of economic policy on issues such as equality, welfare and radicalization of individuals in society.


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