There is broad agreement on the main parameters in the identification of minorities, even if it has not been possible to achieve complete consensus at the international level on a definition of the term. Applying these parameters is a matter of observation of objective criteria and common sense.Some governments claim the right to determine who is and who is not a minority, a claim rejected by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body that monitors implementation of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR). A useful working definition has been offered:" A minority is a population group with ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics differing from the rest of the population, which is non-dominant, numerically smaller than the rest of the population and has the wish to hold on to its separate identity.
Many communities do not commonly use the term "minority",this is also the case in Sudan.It is important in this situation to identify which communities regard themselves as having a separate identity, and what their issues are. In Sudan, all communities are numerically minorities.The crucial issue is the element of dominance, for example the Dinka occupy most positions of political power in the South, but the Nuer occupy most of the oil-bearing land. In addition, a group may be powerful in one region but weak in another.
In dealing with a community, humanitarian actors should use the term that clearly has the widest acceptance-if one exists.But this in no way undermines the usefulness of minority rights as a conceptual framework for understanding grievances, power relationships, and patterns of discrimination and exclusion, and designing interventions accordingly.
Furthermore the minority and indigenous concepts are those that are used in international human rights law,although the minority rights framework does not demand that a person accept the label to enjoy the rights.
The basic elements of minority rights are laid out in Article 27 of the ICCPR, and further developed in the Declaration on the Rights of National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities(UNDM), which was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in 1992.
It is useful to present minority rights in the form of four pillars:
1.The right to exist:like everyone, minorities benefit from the right to life.
2.The right to non- discrimination: protecting minorities from direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of ethnic, religious, linguistic or cultural identity.
3.The right to protection of identity: preserving the freedom of minorities to practise their culture, religion and language in the public and private spheres, and taking measures to enable minorities to develop their culture, religion or language.
4.The right to participation in public affairs: ensuring that minorities can participate in decision-making that affects them and can form their own associations freely.