1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009) | Event: International Conference on Ethnic Inequality and Public Sector Governance


International Conference on Ethnic Inequality and Public Sector Governance


Speech by Nils Muiznieks, Latvian Minister for Special Assignments for Society Integration Affairs


Welcome to Latvia.

It is a great honour to have cooperated with UNDP and the UN Research Institute for Social Development in organising such an important event with so many distinguished speakers. My connection with this project began long ago when I was still an independent expert and not a politician. At the time, UNRISD contacted me and asked if I would like to do the research on Latvia but I was overextended at the time and passed the work off to Artis Pabriks, a colleague in the institute I was then running and he at the time was doing work on ethnic proportionality in the public sector. Now ironically I’m a minister responsible for integration and Artis also just entered politics, entered the parliament and will be heading the Foreign Affairs Commission in parliament. We are in different political parties but we are in the same government. So you’ll get several perspectives on Latvians.

Ethnicity and governance are issues on my daily agenda as a minister responsible for coordinating social integration policy, efforts to combat and prevent racial discrimination and strengthening dialogue with minorities. Today and tomorrow my office is engaging in several important initiatives related to the substance of this conference. Later on today we have a cabinet meeting and I will have to desert you for a while but I will be doing good work. I will be presenting a new umbrella anti discrimination law and related legislation which I think is very close to the theme of this conference. And this new legislation will bring Latvia’s domestic legislation fully into line with the Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the EU Racial Equality Directive and Council of Europe’s standards. And tomorrow, a new sub unit of my office—a minority cultural and information centre—will be launched by the President. The section, this new office of mine, is designed to provide support to minority NGOs by offering them assistance in writing projects, space to hold events and seminars, information on the European Union in minority languages and information on their rights and opportunities in Latvia. It’ll also serve as a clearing house and depository for information on minorities in Latvia.

These activities and my other duties will prevent me from being present throughout the conference but I will be in and out and as I will have the opportunity to address you on Saturday morning, I will stop now. I did want to thank Gabriele and the team at UNDP for their tireless work, especially like to thank my own staff but also Sandra Martinsone, who has done a great job for all of her work and I wish you all a very successful conference and I am convinced that what you have to say will be of great interest to my colleagues in Latvia in both the policy making community and the research community. Thank you for coming.