International standards on minority participation are unlikely to induce a substantial shift in minority policies in Russia. According to ECMI’s Federica Prina, this is due to the international standards’ own flexibility and to the Russian leadership’s approach
In a recently issued article, “Power, Politics and Participation: The Russian Federation’s National Minorities and their Participatory Rights” in Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 30 (2012), Federica Prina argues that international standards are unlikely to change policies in Russia. The article’s focus is participatory rights of minorities.
The reason argues Prina, is the Russian leadership’s commitment to its own approach to nationality issues in the context of its plans for a ‘managed democracy’. Despite this, Prina also argues that international standards should not be dismissed as irrelevant in Russia.
Over-reliance on informal networks
Prina’s article reveals obstacles to Russia’s implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, with a focus on participatory rights (Article 15). It is argued that Russia does not meet the requirements of Article 15, owing to the fact that the form of participation offered to minorities is devoid of guarantees that it will be ‘effective’.
An analysis of two forms of participation – representation in elected bodies and consultative mechanisms, with a particular reference to National Cultural Autonomy – reveals an over-reliance on informal networks and practices in the management of majority-minority relations.
Mechanisms for participation are locked into a system that has features partly originating from the Soviet period and partly from policies introduced by former Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Participatory rights a well-known challenge
Participatory rights are essential in the formulation of effective minority policies, but they are probably the most complex rights to delineate and regulate. Difficulties in implementing participatory rights exist in all countries: there are logistic difficulties in the establishment of effective mechanisms enabling the involvement of the whole spectrum of stakeholders in decision-making.