Several IUAES members started to work in earnest toward the establishment of COER as far back as the early 1980s. Preliminary discussions were held at the 1983 Vancouver ICAES, and the project took shape at the 1988 Zagreb ICAES. By the time of the 1993 Mexico City ICAES an Organizing Committee was in place, and the composition of an international group of supporters was finalized. Subsequently, the Organizing Chairperson submitted a formal "New Commission Proposal" to the IUAES Executive Committee, the approval of which led to COER's ratification in Spring 1995.

Once COER was established, efforts were directed at solidifying our organizational structure, and in further clarifying our objectives. These can be summarized as follows:

Our main goal is to stimulate, coordinate, present, and publicize anthropological research on ethnic relations, as well as to establish a dialog between anthropologists and other social scientists involved in the study of ethnicity.

One issue that has required immediate attention is the stance to be taken by COER on matters related to ethnicity and politics. In September and October 1996, Professor Eric Sunderland, then the IUAES Secretary-General, forwarded to COER a number of materials submitted to the IUAES by the International Institute for Macedonia. These materials presented the argument that serious human rights violations have occurred in the Republic of Macedonia since 1994, and a request was made that the scholarly community represented by the IUAES take a position on the matter.

The IUAES Executive Committee discussed these materials at its 1966 Inter-Congress meeting (Linkoping, Sweden), and it was decided that the Commission on Ethnic Relations should be consulted on the matter. COER's officers considered the issue and agreed that the information available was not sufficient to objectively judge the Macedonian human rights situation. Furthermore, this case stimulated a lively discussion on the role our Commission--or indeed an organization such as the IUAES--should play in adjudicating the political consequences of conflictual ethnic relations.

Several officers pointed out that if the monitoring of human rights violations were to be seen as one of COER's objectives, there are now several hot spots in the world that would require immediate attention, and for which the information available is quite abundant. But the consensus was that this is not one of our Commission's objectives. In fact, this episode stimulated the formulation of a policy statement, which was presented in the form of a motion published in COER REPORT (2).

This motion, the text of which is given below, was thoroughly discussed at COER's first Plenary Meeting, which took place at the 1988 ICAES (Williamsburg, USA). Put to a vote, it passed unanimously, and it goes to constitute the first of our statutory rules.


While fully acknowledging that ethnic relations may be politicized and directly lead to group conflict, the IUAES Commission on Ethnic Relations (COER) will neither adjudicate the rights of groups or individuals involved in such conflicts, nor select specific groups for support or censure. Furthermore, while it is recognized that scholarly work may well involve an element of advocacy, COER will not sponsor the organization of political action stimulated by advocacy, not will it officially support the specific political activities of its members.

(Approved July 30, 1998)