MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP INTERNATIONAL
INTER-ETHNIC INITIATIVE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION (IEI)
March 12-15, 1999
Ms. Mariana Bekiari, of RAINBOW, recently had the pleasure to attend a meeting of Minority Rights Group International hosted by Inter-Ethnic Initiative for Human Rights Foundation (IEI). The meeting was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, and was entitled SOUTHEAST EUROPE: DIVERSITY AND DEMOCRACY REGIONAL PLANNING MEETING
The goal of the meeting was to bring participants together from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia and FR Yugoslavia and MRG staff to jointly analyse problems facing minorities in the region, and discuss strategies to address them.
Background to the Meeting:
Southeast Europe has in recent years been beset by ethnic conflict. Whilst each situation and each state is unique, a common problem is the notion of the state as the representative of one ethnic nation. This often leads to the subsequent denial of pluralism and minorities being treated as 'second-class' citizens. Because many of the regional minority / majority issues have a crossborder dimension, MRG believes that the situations of specific minorities and countries need to be approached in a regional context. During autumn and winter 1998, MRG and its partners undertook needs assessment and feasibility studies in several countries of Southeast Europe, consulting with non-governmental organisations and others about the problems affecting the region and how they might be addressed. MRG identified a range of organisations and individuals undertaking valuable work to promote intercommunity understanding, but at the same time it perceived a need for a range of minority rights based projects across the region, using MRG's well-tried approaches. Having established links with a significant number of organisations that expressed interest in working with MRG in the future, MRG obtained funding for this initial meeting to jointly analyse key problems facing minorities in Southeast Europe today and to discuss joint approaches to address them.