Minority Protection and Mass Atrocity Prevention

The Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities is a research, education and documentation center in Oslo focusing on the situation of minorities in contemporary societies, the Holocaust, and other genocides.

Our international project on minority protection is part of the Center’s strategy to strengthen its work in the international human rights field, and to combine the Center’s competence on minority studies and genocide studies. It is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the period 2017-2019, and has the following sub-projects:

A research project on international mechanisms for prevention of severe human rights abuses against minorities (including early warning mechanisms). This project looks at severe human rights abuses against minorities, in particular instances of mass atrocities. It looks at mechanisms for monitoring, warning and prevention. Currently, the project is following the situation in Myanmar particularly close. The study of Myanmar will be part of a comparative study on warnings of mass atrocity crimes (including, but not limited to genocide). Further, a central aim is to collect and develop knowledge about successful cases of conflict solution and de-escalation of violence. By focusing on a broader set of cases than clear-cut genocides, and on mechanisms that aim to monitor and prevent human rights abuses, the project aims to bridge gaps between the genocide studies field and the broader human rights field. Contact person: Ellen Stensrud: ellen.stensrud@hl.senteret.no


The Minority Network facilitates dialogue between academic scholars, NGO experts and decision-makers at the national and international level on what a human rights based minority protection implies and how it may be implemented and secured in conflict-ridden societies. Originally developed in 2015 as a dialogue forum for Norwegian researchers and practitioners within the field of minority rights, the Network is now cooperating with international and regional partners in countries in the MENA region (e.g. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon) and South East Asia (e.g. Myanmar, Indonesia). In addition to organizing workshops aiming for dialogue and capacity building, network activities include development of a training manual and online course on minority rights and publication of academic articles. It particularly aims to train younger scholars from the target countries in skills of academic publication. Contact person: Ingvill Plesner: i.t.plesner@hlsenteret.no

A research project on the impact of minority status for flight and return for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The main question of this qualitative, interview-based research project is: To what extent and in what way was the minority status, on ethnic and/or religious basis, a reason for flight? And how does it influence considerations of return, e.g. in terms of reflections on political and social conditions for security and inclusion? The empirical focus of this project is refugees currently based in Norway from these countries. It builds on findings from previous research on the experiences and considerations of refugees from Iraq and Syria living in neighboring countries, in particular Lebanon. Ingvill Plesner: i.t.plesner@hlsenteret.no

International Conferences

This project on minority protection will organize three international conferences. We will invite scholars and NGO experts to conduct academically informed and politically pertinent discussions on issues related to minority protection. The conferences build on our research projects as well as the Minority Network activities. We aim to make the discussions relevant and accessible to scholars, practitioners, policy makers as well as the general public. We will consider various options for publishing conference papers.


18th-19th June 2018: The UDHR at 70 - "Human Rights and Inclusive Citizenship - Conditions for Co-existence in Conflict-ridden Societies"[1]

This international conference will address the complex relationship between citizenship, power-sharing, diversity and human rights in conflict-ridden societies. The UN Special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varnnes, is among the keynote speakers, and the Norwegian Nobel Peace Institute is the main vanue of this conference, gathering Norwegian experts and international scholars.

Several countries are experiencing conflicts along ethnic and religious divides, making people belonging to such minorities particularly vulnerable, sometimes with internal displacement or migration as a consequence. The main aim of the conference is to address what legal and institutional measures may give effective protection of the rights of religious and ethnic groups in a vulnarable situation in conflict-ridden societies, asking in particular: What models of citizenship and power-sharing may ensure the rights of persons belonging to different ethnic and religious groups? What can we learn from experiences of persons belonging to such groups in conflict-ridden societies about conditions for protection of human rights and minority protection post conflict? 

Main cases for discussion will be countries of transition in South-East Asia and the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA), in particular Iraq and Myanmar. Successful practices and other lessons learned from these and other regions, such as the Balkans, will be addressed in the discussions.

6-7 September 2018: The UN Genocide Convention at 70: The Politics of Mass Atrocity Prevention[2]

Recent examples of mass atrocities, as well as the persistent use of the term genocide in advocacy and politics, put prevention once again at the center of the discussion as we mark the seventieth anniversary of the Genocide Convention.

To further our understanding of genocide and mass-atrocity prevention, the conference will draw on insights from various fields such as history, international law, human rights, political science, and conflict studies. Topics to be covered include the relationship between law and politics; the rhetoric of genocide; non-state perpetrators of genocide; comparative research about causes of mass violence; tools for prevention; and examples of effective de-escalation of violence.

Empirically, the link between mass atrocities and armed conflict, as well as the focus on examples of de-escalation of violence, make the conference focus beyond the “standard” cases of genocide.

2019: Minority protection and mass atrocity prevention[3]

The specific content of this conference is yet to be decided, but the overarching aim will be to integrate lessons from the field of minority rights protection with the field of mass atrocity prevention, and hence from the various sub-projects and the two 2018 conferences It will put a particular emphasis on available mechanisms and policy options.


[1] For information, contact Ingvill Plesner: i.t.plesner@hlsenteret.no.

[2] For information, contact Ellen Stensrud: ellen.stensrud@hlsenteret.no

[3] For information, contact Ellen Stensrud: ellen.stensrud@hlsenteret.no


Published Oct. 13, 2017 2:25 PM - Last modified Dec. 5, 2018 11:43 AM