Implementation of Rights of Minority

Can the rights of a minority be better implemented as collective rights rather than as individual rights in the international arena?

Asked on January 24, 2014 in minority.
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Theoretically, some of the proponents of minority rights being collective rights argue that the status of a minority group, as a right holder, is analogous to an individual person. Others, who give groups no such independent standing, conceive group rights as rights that are shared in and held jointly by the group’s members. On the other hand, most of the opponents of group rights challenge the very proposition that groups can bear rights.

For those opposing collective rights even if they acknowledge that groups are capable of bearing rights, potential threat of collective rights to individual rights seems to be one of the strongest arguments. In fact, studies have shown that generally classification of rights as collective rights, (for all practical purposes) is harmful to the protection of individual members.

International law with respect to minority rights adopts a largely individualist paradigm, and there still exists quite a strong individualistic bias in international human rights law. On the contrary, it is evident that UN treaty-monitoring bodies day by day have been developing the group-oriented component of various provisions found within the human rights treaties they oversee. So even though minority rights in the international arenas are predominantly conceived as individualistic, the protection of minorities as a group cannot be separated from the question of the different approaches and ideas of collective and individual human rights.


Miodrag A. Jovanovic, “Recognizing Minority Identities Through Collective Rights”, Human Rights Quarterly, vol.27, no.2, 2005, p.645.

Yael Tamir, “Against Collective Rights”, in Christian Joppke and Steven Lukes (eds.), Multicultural Questions, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.164.

Answered on October 26, 2016.
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