Can Minorities Treaties Work?
Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Vol. 2, pp. 71-92, 1991
THE PROTECTION OF MINORITIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS, Y. Dinstein, M. Tabory, eds., Martius Nijhoff Publishing, 1992
23 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2010
Date Written: June 1, 1991
Few problems are more important or complex than the challenge of devising legal arrangements through which the legitimate rights and interests of ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic minorities and majorities can be fairly reconciled. This article explores the possible relevance of international agreements to the effective management of such minorities’ problems.
Its principal aim is to provide a framework and raise some broader questions which may be useful in thinking about how international agreements and other arrangements might help deal with contemporary minorities’ problems.
The article begins by examining “What is a Minority Treaty?” and “International Experience Concerning Minorities Treaties” – in particular, the experience of the League of Nations minorities treaties system. It then turns to its principal topic, “Rethinking Minorities Treaties: Some Questions and Issues”. Among the questions discussed are: (1) Why are minorities’ treaties needed when there are human rights treaties? (2) Should minorities’ treaties be broadly applicable, or apply only to a specific minorities problem? (3) Would regional minorities conventions make sense? (4) Why should any state agree to a treaty requiring protection of its minorities? (5) Why should minorities be interested in a minorities treaty? (6) Why should another state, or the international community, be interested in a minorities treaty? (7) Why should anyone trust an international guarantee? (8) What problems should a minorities treaty cover? and (9) How to judge whether a minorities treaty works.
The article concludes that, despite the difficulty encountered by the League of Nations minorities system, such treaties can work if the states and minorities involved want them to work- and if they use common sense, legal skill, judgment and good faith in helping them to work. While minorities’ treaties alone cannot solve minorities problems, they can help create a context and climate in which the societies and groups concerned can more effectively shape solutions and work out a common destiny. For this reason, they deserve the closer attention of lawyers and diplomats.
Keywords: Minorities Treaties, national ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic minorities, League of Nations minorities treaties system, minorities problems, international guarantees of minorities rights, minorities and human rights
JEL Classification: K33, K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation