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MIRIS - Minority Rights Information System

Background

Documentation and easy accessibility of data on matters relating to national and ethnic minorities is becoming increasingly significant. Even over the last couple of years, legal standardisation in Europe, the enlargement of the European Union and the establishment of international instruments such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages of the Council of Europe have contributed to a greater awareness of minority issues. The settlement of ethnic disputes is recognised as a vital factor for the successful maintenance of peaceful cohabitation and stability, particularly within the acceding and candidate countries to the European Union.

Despite this, the numerous national legal standards on minority protection differ greatly from state to state. In spite of numerous existing information systems and databanks, not only the gathering of comprehensive information but also the successful comparison between the national legislation of different states remain difficult tasks.

Description

The aim of the database is to promote the development of minority rights standards by providing easily accessible information about the implementation of minority rights for not only experts, public officials, NGO's and minority representatives but also interested researchers and students.

The MIRIS database includes the most important legal texts relating to minority rights by concentrating upon relevant national legislation and case-law. So as to obtain a more impartial insight into the relevant issues, such texts have been put together by reports compiled not only by minority groups but also through opinions of experts, e.g. the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention. In addition to this, specific documents on minority groups (covering, for example statistical data and history) as well as relevant international treaties and agreements of the UN, Council of Europe and the OSCE are available for examination. The evaluation of the situation of minority groups is supported by further texts that are to include case studies, comments and in depth analyses.

The MIRIS System is bilingual with texts provided in both English and the official language of the state concerned. Geographically, all member States of the Council of Europe will be included.

The database system is easily accessible through any internet browser by means of a user-friendly interface. So as to facilitate the user's search, the database includes different user interaction modes, those of browsing the document database, enabling a full text search, advanced search and automatic report generation.

Within the browsing mode, the user can select a specific document and then navigate through hyper-space, consulting any document which may be related to the chosen text. The user then has the possibility to combine the various search facilities and select from the following headers: documents by country, by topic, by minority group or by any of the aforementioned document types. The full text search in particular helps in the location of documents containing one or more relevant keywords.

The advanced search mode permits a more focused search; not only that relating to a content-based keyword search but also that providing for specific queries. A typical query might be: "Which countries are providing specific provisions for the political participation of minorities?" A list of states including links to relevant legislation will be delivered in response. Furthermore, reports may be automatically generated or may even be composed by the user. Such a function collects together all information and data from several different sources and automatically compose a single report on the topic, titles for example ´Germans and the Media in South Tyrol´.

Progress to date

Whilst the team of lawyers and information technology experts have designed the overall architecture of MIRIS and developed the first working prototype, the information gathering process has already begun and focuses on some twenty-eight countries in Western and Eastern Europe.

Individual case studies on the legal situation of minorities in the Balkan countries have been composed by order of the Italian NGO "Osservatorio sui Balcani". These have already been published online and can be found here.

The MIRIS database system has been approved as a suitable project of the online Consortium for Minority Resources to be found at http://lgi.osi.hu/comir/.

The project has also been endorsed into the Stability Pact Programme of the Task Force "Human Rights and Minorities".

Contacts - lead agency

Günther Rautz
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano
Drususallee/Viale Druso 1 - 39100 Bozen/Bolzano (ITALY)
Phone: +39-0471-055210 Fax:+39-0471-055099
E-mail: g.rautz@eurac.edu
Eva Maria Moar
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano
Drususallee/Viale Druso 1 - 39100 Bozen/Bolzano (ITALY)
Phone: +39-0471-055218 Fax:+39-0471-055099
E-mail: e.moar@eurac.edu