The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

Within the OSCE the protection of minorities has been conceived largely as a security issue and the mechanisms that address these commitments are principally security-oriented. The primary recourse is through diplomatic means at interstate or multilateral level. Perhaps the most effective and influential institution within the OSCE context in this regard has been the OSCE HCNM, whose mandate was created in 1992 by OSCE participating states in recognition of the need for an effective mechanism to respond to minority-related tensions following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and ensuing conflict in the region. As an instrument of conflict prevention, the HCNM addresses minority issues from a security perspective. However, the ill-informed critiques of the ‘securitization’ of state—minority relations as a risky strategy which can potentially ‘problematize’ particular communities as a threat to society, prompt or exacerbate vilification, perpetuate negative stereotypes, and lead to restrictive policies do not apply in this case. On the contrary, the HCNM approach whereby (potentially) tense situations involving minorities are addressed using rights-based approaches sits firmly within the ‘security-rights nexus’ identified by Sasse. The HCNM is essentially a normative actor who aims not only to manage already securitized relations in the short and medium term, but to transform and ‘desecuritize’ those relationships in the long term.

Accordingly, in this section we examine the HCNM’s use of both hard and soft law pertaining to minorities in the execution of his or her conflict prevention mandate, as well as in developing his or heE7 own soft jurisprudence and standards which clarify and build upon the content of minority rights and other standards (both hard and soft) and provide options for effective practice.

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