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Botswana: UN expert visits to assess the rights of minorities

GENEVA (10 August 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, will visit Botswana from 13 to 24 August to gather first-hand information on the situation of minorities in the country, and to identify good practices as well as key areas that require more effort.

As required by his mandate, he will examine how the State is implementing the 1992 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities through legislation, policy and practice.

“I will have the opportunity to assess the legislative and institutional framework for the promotion and protection of the human rights of minorities in Botswana, and will consult with a variety of people over specific policies and initiatives to ensure the country’s compliance with its international obligations,” said Mr. de Varennes.

The visit will focus particularly on issues relating to the official recognition in law and practice of steps to ensure equality and non-discrimination for minorities, including indigenous minorities such as the San, the Balala, and the Nama.

National measures to guarantee the right of effective participation of minorities in cultural and public life, including political participation, will be examined, along with the legal and policy framework for the linguistic rights of minorities and in particular concerning access to quality education in minority languages, including Sign Language.

The Special Rapporteur will also examine steps to implement the right of minorities to an adequate standard of living, and the impact of economic and development policies, including developmental projects and business activities in regions with a minority presence.

“Botswana’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity needs to become a driving force in the country’s efforts for progress and prosperity for all without discrimination. I am confident this visit will provide the opportunity for constructive dialogue with a view to identifying good practices as well as areas for improvement,” the UN expert added.

During his 12-day mission, the Special Rapporteur will travel to the capital Gaborone, and to other regions and localities relevant to his mandate and where minority communities are located, including Francistown, Maun, Ghanzi and Kasane. He will meet senior government officials, representatives of civil society and members of minority tribes, and members of the deaf community with regard to, among other things, their rights as members of a linguistic minority.

At the end of his visit, on Friday 24 August, Mr. de Varennes will share his preliminary findings and recommendations at a news conference at the Conference Room of the United Nations Building, Cnr Khama Crescent and President’s Drive, at 14:00 local time. 

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report of his visit to Botswana during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2019.


Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

UN Human Rights country page: Botswana

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:

In Botswana (during the visit) :
Ms. Onneetse K. Makhumalo (+267 36 33 703 / onneetse.makhumalo@one.un.org )
Mr. Damianos Serefidis (+41 79 500 00 32 / dserefidis@ohchr.org )

In Geneva (before and after the visit):Mr. Damianos Serefidis (+41 79 500 00 32 / dserefidis@ohchr.org )

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.