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OSCE Consultancy: National Minorities and Bridge Building

​​​Do national minorities contribute to bridge building in international relations?  If so, how, and what are some good examples of such cases across the OSCE area?

"Bridge Building and Integration in Diverse Societies"

As part of Germany's chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2016, the High Commissioner on National Minorities has tasked the EURAC Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism in cooperation with the EURAC Institute for Minority Rights and the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) with conducting a study highlighting the abilities of diverse ethnic groups and minorities as bridge-builders and agents of reconciliation between states. The outcome of the project provides OSCE members with recommendations based on positive examples of these diverse groups and their institutions working productively in collaboration with local municipalities and authorities. See the Executive Summary!

The project concept was developed in view of two key aspects: the mandate of the HCNM and the key objectives of the German OSCE Chairmanship in 2016. The initiative merges the High Commissioner's mandate to provide "early warning" at the earliest possible stage in regard to tensions involving national minority issues and the focus of the German OSCE Chairmanship under the headline Dialogue, Trust and Security. The Chairmanship puts focus on national minority issues, with the intention of highlighting the abilities of national minorities as bridge-builders and agents of reconciliation between states. The concept of examining how minority-majority relations contribute to "bridge building" takes as its point of departure the opportunities which lie in the variety of connections that can be built upon by diverse societies to promote peace, security and economic development both within and between States.

Duration of the project: March 2016 – December 2016

The cooperation between EURAC and ECMI was based on two steps: While EURAC focused on researching the legal and political framework of cross-border cooperation between OSCE member states, ECMI asked minority organizations, civil society and regional or local municipalities to participate in a nine-question survey. EURAC makes available a table showing an extraordinary number of initiatives categorized in different legal forms of cross-border cooperation.


The EURAC Report titled "Cross-Border Cooperation and its Potential for Minorities in Selected Border Regions of OSCE Member States" investigates which instruments help national minorities to cooperate across borders.


The report provides a general introduction (“1. From Separation through Contact and Integration: Cooperation Across Borders. Introduction”), the description of concrete legal instruments (“2. Cross-Border Cooperation: Legal mechanisms for building bridges between States”) and a list of examples with regard to the core findings (“3. Selected Examples from the Case Studies”). Furthermore, the report presents a short bibliography.

Final report

The project on Bridge Building and Integration in Diverse Societies is now finalized with a report titled “Dynamics of Integration in the OSCE Area: National Minorities and Bridge Building” published in January 2017. The report investigates how national minorities contribute to bridge building in international relations, and identifies some good examples of initiatives across the OSCE area. Our research team, together with senior researchers from ECMI and independent researcher Dr. Nina Bagdasarova, explored over 190 initiatives with a help of partner organizations and networks across the European continent, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Of these, 104 initiatives were considered as positive examples of bridge-building initiatives, and 24 were selected to be presented in more detail in the report.



The report is published in support of the 2016 German OSCE Chairmanship's focus on "the situation of national minorities in times of crisis, their positive contribution to social integration and their potential to build bridges in international relations".

In the report, bridge building is examined at three levels of cooperation: the macro, the meso and the micro levels. Macro level initiatives span across territorial borders, whereas meso level initiatives exist within state boundaries. Micro level initiatives are found at the grass-root level and cover both cross-border initiatives and intra-state initiatives. The 24 examples of positive initiatives discussed in this Report cover cooperation between or within 29 participating States of the OSCE. All examples have been identified on the basis of involving national minorities.​

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