Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

UN's Independent Expert on Minority Issues

from UNHCR

In July, 2005 Ms. Gay McDougall was appointed the UN's first Independent Expert on Minority Issues. Ms. McDougall is the Director of the Washington, DC-based Global Rights, . Who is going to keep her appraised of Sri Lankan issues? -- Editor


The UN Independent Expert on minority issues is a special procedures mandate created by the UN Commssion on Human Rights. The mandate complements and enhances the work of other UN bodies and mechanisms that address minority rights and minority issues, including the Working Group on Minorities and the treaty monitoring bodies. Importantly, the Independent Expert can consult directly with Governments regarding minority issues, and is also mandated to take into account the views of NGOs, offering a unique opportunity for constructive engagement in country situations.


In Resolution 2005/79 the Commission on Human Rights requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint an independent expert on minority issues for a period of two years, with the mandate:

(a) To promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, including through consultations with Governments, taking into account existing international standards and national legislation concerning minorities;

(b) To identify best practices and possibilities for technical cooperation by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the request of Governments;

(c) To apply a gender perspective in his or her work;

(d) To cooperate closely, while avoiding duplication, with existing relevant United Nations bodies, mandates, mechanisms as well as regional organizations;

(e) To take into account the views of non-governmental organizations on matters pertaining to his or her mandate.

The Commission also requested the Independent Expert to submit annual reports on her activities to the Commission, including recommendations for effective strategies for the better implementation of the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

In carrying out her mandate, the independent expert will:

-receive information from diverse sources including States, expert bodies, United Nations agencies, regional and other inter-governmental organizations, NGOs and other civil society organizations. Based on such information, she will communicate with States concerning implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, where appropriate. Communications will include requests for further consultation and information relating to good practices on minority issues.

- submit annual reports on the activities foreseen by the mandate to the Commission on Human Rights

- undertake, at the invitation of Governments, country visits to further constructive consultation, observe relevant programmes and policies, register concerns, and identify areas for cooperation. She will study national legislation, policy, regulatory frameworks and institutions and practices, in seeking to promote the effective implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities.

Independent Expert

Ms. GAY MCDOUGALL (United States of America)

On 29 July 2005, Ms. Gay McDougall ( United States) was appointed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, as the first holder of the position of Independent Expert on minority issues, in accordance with the provisions of Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/79. The Independent Expert has an initial mandate of 2 years.

A human rights lawyer, Gay McDougall has been Executive Director of Global Rights since September 1994. She served as an Independent Expert on the UN treaty body that oversees the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and on the U.N. Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. As Special Rapporteur on the issue of systematic rape and sexual slavery practices in armed conflict, she presented a groundbreaking study calling for international legal standards for the prosecution of such acts. She was one of five international members of South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission, which successfully organized and administered that country's first non-racial elections.

To contact the Independent Expert:

Contact person e-mail address
Graham Fox

Erik Friberg

Mailing address:

Ms. Gay McDougall
Independent Expert on minority issues
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Fax: + 41 22 917 9006

  • Publication date: