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Civil Society Contributions to the Work of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

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As a conflict prevention institution of 'quiet diplomacy', the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) is not associated, at a first glance, with civil society. This article analyses the working methods of the HCNM and demonstrates the all but irrelevant contribution of civil society to the successful implementation of the HCNM mandate. The paper first identifies the categories of civil society mostly involved with the work of the HCNM and then illustrates the diff erent forms of involvement of each of them. It focuses, in particular, on two important instruments of the HCNM 'toolbox', the project work and the elaboration of general recommendations, looking at the essential role played by civil society actors. It concludes by maintaining that the role of the conflict prevention mandate of the HCNM has evolved significantly since his early years and that such evolution has eff ected (and was in turn affected by) substantial contribution from the side of civil society. As a result, a structural triangle of conflict-prevention comprising the HCNM, national authorities and civil society is emerging as reference, even if the balance among the three actors is defined separately in each individual case.


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Affiliations: 1: Administrator, Secretariat of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France; 2: Professor of comparative constitutional law, University of Verona, Italy Director, Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism, EURAC, Bolzano/Bozen, Italy


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