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UN Says Kazakhstan Has 'Room For Improvement' On Minority Issues


A top UN rights official has commended Kazakhstan for its "high degree of inter-ethnic and inter-religious cooperation and tolerance," but says a "number of issues" of concern remain.

Gay J. McDougall, the UN's independent expert on minority issues, released a statement at the end of a nine-day official visit to the country.

She is due to present a report to the UN Human Rights Council in March, "concentrating on aspects ranging from minority representation at the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan and political participation, to minority language issues, education, and religion."

In her preliminary findings, McDougall pointed out that "it would greatly enhance the potential and legitimacy of the Assembly if members were elected by each minority group directly, and without reference to the cultural associations which are themselves not based on a principle of representativeness."

The government is establishing Kazakh as the official state language, and McDougall urged sensitivity to ensure that the policy "does not unduly impact upon the rights and opportunities of those communities and sectors of society that might require additional assistance, time and resources to gain proficiency."

McDougall also urged the government "to engage in a wide-ranging dialogue with 'nontraditional' religious groups about ways to guarantee their full rights and freedoms."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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