Kazakhstan has ‘room for improvement’ on minority issues – UN rights expert

15 July 2009
Gay McDougall, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues

In spite of the high degree of inter-ethnic and inter-religious cooperation and tolerance in Kazakhstan, a United Nations human rights expert said there is still “room for improvement” on minority issues in the Central Asian nation.

The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan is “a valuable national symbol of the recognition of minorities and the commitment of the State to the preservation of the cultural heritage of minorities,” Gay McDougall, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, said, wrapping up a nine-day visit to the country.

But she pointed out that the body’s potential and legitimacy could be boosted if members were elected by minority groups directly, “without reference to the cultural associations which are themselves not based on a principle of representativeness.”

While appreciating the Government’s establishment of Kazakh as the national language, Ms. McDougall warned that “sensitivity must continue to be exercised to ensure that the policy does not unduly impact upon the rights and opportunities of those communities and sectors of society that might require additional assistance, time and resources to gain proficiency in the Kazakh language.”

She was appointed as a UN Independent Expert in July 2005, and reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an unpaid capacity.


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