The High Commissioner on National Minorities: Persona and Quiet Diplomacy


  • Stéphanie Cramer Marsal Independent Consultant



national minorities, conflict prevention, quiet diplomacy, OSCE, multilateralism


This main focus of this article is to elaborate on the personal dimension of the mandate of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. Using interviews with the HCNMs, other interlocutors and studies on HCNM’s conflict prevention practice, the article profiles the individual and professional backgrounds of the six past and present HCNMs: Max van der Stoel, Rolf Ekéus, Knut Vollebaek, Astrid Thors, Lamberto Zannier and Kairat Abdrakhmanov. It looks at some of the common and distinct elements of the HCNMs’ experience in a so-called mutual accommodation between the post and the post-holder’s personality and background over the last three decades of existence of the institution (1993-2023). How one takes ownership of the mandate and the persona created? How does one operates including through the quiet diplomacy approach? The paper finds that the political clout and the profile of the post-holder matter in upholding a strategic approach to conflict prevention that captures the critical connections between the security and human dimensions of conflict prevention. At the same time, it acknowledges that the evolving political and security environment demands adaptations and that there are there are limits to what one person may achieve without a cooperative and supportive environment. A key challenge remains, however, regarding making use of existing possibilities for the HCNM to engage and relatedly, the willingness or capacity of the post-holder to take calculated risks in order to focus on the HCNM core mandate of conflict prevention.




How to Cite

Cramer Marsal, S. (2023). The High Commissioner on National Minorities: Persona and Quiet Diplomacy. Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 22(2), 9–37.