Responding to Ethnic and Religious Conflict in the Emerging Arab Order: The Promise and Limits of Rights
40 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2012 Last revised: 31 Jul 2014
Date Written: November 10, 2012
Intercommunal conflict has marred the political transitions unfolding in a number of states in the Middle East, raising questions about the status and protection of ethnic and religious minorities in the region’s evolving political order. In view of the transnational character and regional scale of the problem, this essay considers the efficacy of one potential regional response – the development of an Arab convention on minority rights. The essay begins by describing three types of “minority problem” that have been sources of conflict in the Middle East: (1) religious minorities & Islamist majoritarianism; (2) nationalist minorities and territorial disputes; and (3) politically dominant minorities and survivalist minoritarianism. The essay then sketches the international legal context, focusing in particular on the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities. Turning back to the Middle East, the essay concludes that while a treaty exercise of that kind is probably premature, an effort to begin building consensus about regional norms would be a valuable means of promoting discourse about the contours of local norms and their harmonization – both with one another and with evolving international human rights standards.
Keywords: ethnic conflict, religious conflict, human rights, regional institutions, Middle East, Arab spring
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation