The right to effective participation of national minorities in public life is one of the main pillars of minority protection, and as such the subject of extensive legal and academic focus. Indeed, this right is enshrined in both minority-specific legal instruments and in general human rights treaties; accordingly, there is a wealth of academic research looking at the right to participation of national minorities from legal, political, or historical perspectives.

Intriguingly however, most of the literature on the subject tends to focus on the political aspect of participation in public life, covering in depth topics such as political representation, non-territorial autonomy arrangements, or consultative bodies. By comparison, the focus on the socio-economic aspects of participation of national minority groups is comparatively underdeveloped, to the effect that – with several notable exceptions – limited consideration has been given to the scope of horizontal inequalities in multi-ethnic societies, their effects on minorities’ participation in socio-economic life, and the policy drivers that could have a positive impact in this respect.

The limits of the available literature do not however reflect a (hypothetical) limited relevance of socioeconomic rights relative to civil and political ones. Effective participation in political life is inextricably linked to the opportunities for participating in a society’s social and economic life; furthermore, a lack of focus on the socio-economic inequalities faced by national minorities and the ways to alleviate them leaves policymakers without important analytical and methodological tools.

As such, the Equality & Inclusion Cluster has created a dedicated focus to issues pertaining to the participation of national minorities in social and economic life. Under this focus, we seek to unpack the concept of socio-economic participation, and reflect on the ways in which horizontal inequalities shape the access of members of national minorities to adequate housing, healthcare services, employment, education, and other relevant policy areas. From a legal perspective, a reflection on how socio-economic rights have been conceptualised in international law and respectively how their implementation has been monitored can give us important insights. Intrinsically related to the legal realisation of socio-economic rights are the ways in which public policies are designed to tackle socio-economic inequalities. Whether seeking to correct economic imbalances or promote participation in social life, the methodologies and approaches used in their implementation, as well as their impact and transferability are all worthy considerations pertaining to the broader topic of socio-economic participation. In this context, specific topics such as minority women’s participation in socio-economic life; the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples’ livelihoods; or how kinstates can shape a minority’s ability to participate in socio-economic life are just a few examples of the range of topics included in this research focus.


  • ECMI Workshop on the Socioeconomic Participation and National Minorities, 11-12 November 2021
    The workshop seeks to reflect on the scope of the right of national minorities to socio-economic participation, as well as on the historical and political contexts that were conducive to the current status quo in the legal realisation of this right. A set of case studies, presented in comparative perspective, will offer a better grasp of the areas of socio-economic participation most relevant to national minorities, of how inequalities in these areas have emerged and continue to play out, and enquire to what extent various policy approaches have been successful in improving minorities’ socio-economic participation.

    More concretely, the workshop – and the envisaged subsequent publication – will explore the subject of socio-economic participation from a variety of perspectives. From a historical perspective, the question of how political and cultural rights for national minorities have come to dominate the legal and political discourse is crucial and could provide us with insights into the contemporary status quo. Questions as to how the communist regimes in Eastern Europe addressed the issue of socio-economic participation of national minorities and what the transition to capitalism meant for this aspect of participation are equally worthy of reflection. The consideration of how socio-economic participation has been actualised under neoliberal regimes is an equally intriguing question. From a legal perspective, a reflection on how socio-economic rights have been conceptualised in international law and respectively how their implementation has been monitored can give us important insights. Case studies analysing a range of public policies aiming to tackle socio-economic inequalities will be also included among the workshop presentations, focusing on the methodologies and approaches used in their implementation, as well as their impact and transferability. The workshop convenors are Andreea Cârstocea and Craig Willis.
    The programme of the woekshop can be accessed here.
  • Research Report on the Socio-economic Participation of National Minorities
    In the first half of 2021, Andreea Cârstocea and Craig Willis drafted a 100-page report on the socio-economic participation of national minorities, as commissioned by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. This report offered an overview of the main barriers and drivers of socio-economic participation for national minorities in the OSCE space. Stemming from the recognition that socio-economic participation is an important element in preventing interethnic conflict, the aim of the report was to unpack this broad notion by categorising it into a set of core policy areas and ascertaining the barriers that prevent national minorities from fully participating in each, as well as identifying drivers that lead to improved socio-economic participation.

    As such, the report reviewed the main theoretical considerations and legal frameworks concerning socio-economic participation and outlined the links between the HCNM’s mandate and socio-economic participation of national minorities. The authors identified and expanded on the relevance of seven policy areas covered by the right to socio-economic participation of national minorities – education, employment, housing, healthcare, public goods, environment, and regional development; identified the main challenges and drivers in promoting effective social and economic participation within each of these policy areas; and presented a selection of best practices from across the OSCE area, differentiated by direct, indirect and integrated approaches, with the issue of transferability also discussed.

    The final report was submitted to the OSCE HCNM in July 2021 and will contribute to the HCNM’s future work in this area.
  • Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities
    In 2009, the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Issues Relating to the Protection of National Minorities (DH-MIN), sent a questionnaire to member states, asking them to submit information related to the distribution, use, and auditing of the public financial support for projects concerning persons belonging to national minorities and their organizations. In 2010, following the receipt of answers from 23 member states, a compilation of these answers was drafted and made public; however, with the DH-MIN discontinuing its activity in 2010, the analysis of the contents was not carried out.

    Despite the fundamental importance of ensuring adequate funding to minority organisations for the effective participation of national minorities to political and public life, there is only limited academic literature and policy analysis on this topic. The ECMI project ‘Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities’ (2013-2015) was meant to fill a gap in the knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms underlying the distribution of financial support to minority organisations in Europe. The participation of national minorities to political and public life is to a great extent determined by the activity of ‘representative’ organisations, and for them to be able to function adequately funding is of fundamental importance. The amounts and procedure for distribution of financial support, its uses, and the mechanisms in place to oversee the legality and transparency of its use are all important components in this process.
    The project examined a set of issues related to the funding of national minority organisations (broadly understood), thus comprising minority parties, minority councils, minority associations, etc., by focusing on the issue of funding as directed by states to minority organisations. The project was developed by Andreea Cârstocea.

    The report of the expert workshop on the Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities, organised in the framework of this project.

    As another outcome of the project, you can also read Special Issue 3/2015 ‘The Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities’ of the Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe.

Relevant ECMI publications:

  • Andreea Cârstocea and Craig Willis (2021) Less equal than others: National minorities and the overlooked challenge of socio-economic inequalities. ECMI Minorities Blog.
  • Herault, R. & Willis, C. (2021) 'European Union Structural and Investment Funds and Celtic language: An analysis of the 2007-2020 funding period in relation to Breton, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh', MPRA Paper No. 107324. Munich: Munich University Library. Available at:
  • Andreea Cârstocea (2018) National Minorities and Socioeconomic Equality: Still Work in Progress, ECMI Issue Brief 41
  • Andreea Cârstocea, ed. (2015) Special Issue: The Distribution of Financial Support to Organizations Representing National Minorities, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe (3).


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