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UN expert visits Botswana to assess rights of minorities

Fernand de Varennes
The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, is in Botswana from August 13 to 24 to gather first-hand information on the situation of minorities in the country, and to identify good practices as well as key areas that require more effort, the UN Human Rights office in Gaborone has announced.

The press statement says as required by his mandate, de Varennes will examine how the state is implementing the 1992 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities through legislation, policy and practice.

“I will have the opportunity to assess the legislative and institutional framework for the promotion and protection of the human rights of minorities in Botswana, and will consult with a variety of people over specific policies and initiatives to ensure the country’s compliance with its international obligations,” de Varennes is quoted as saying. 

The visit will focus particularly on issues relating to the official recognition in law and practice of steps to ensure equality and non-discrimination for minorities, including indigenous minorities such as the San, the Balala, and the Nama.  National measures to guarantee the right of effective participation of minorities in cultural and public life, including political participation, will be examined, along with the legal and policy framework for the linguistic rights of minorities and in particular concerning access to quality education in minority languages, including Sign Language. 

The Special Rapporteur will

also examine steps to implement the right of minorities to an adequate standard of living, and the impact of economic and development policies, including developmental projects and business activities in regions with a minority presence. 

“Botswana’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity needs to become a driving force in the country’s efforts for progress and prosperity for all without discrimination.  I am confident this visit will provide the opportunity for constructive dialogue with a view to identifying good practices as well as areas for improvement,” the UN expert added. 

During his 12-day mission, the Special Rapporteur will travel to Gaborone, and to other regions and localities relevant to his mandate and where minority communities are located, including Francistown, Maun, Gantsi and Kasane.  He will meet senior government officials, representatives of civil society and members of minority tribes, and members of the deaf community with regard to, among other things, their rights as members of a linguistic minority. 

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report of his visit to Botswana during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2019.




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