THS Minorities Course, Fall 2010

This page includes links and information of interest to students in a course I am currently teaching in the Stockholm School of Theology Human Rights Program on the rights of minority and indigenous groups.

Week 38

– Transitions OnLine has a training on media coverage of ethnic minorities – could be interesting to follow up with them and see if they have any background material that could be useful.

– The Economist has some very interesting articles on Roma issues – last week on Roma in Europe, this week in France; check them out quickly as this site removes articles after a few weeks.

Week 39

– Very interesting opinion piece in allAfrica.com on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) that compares their decisions in the Ogoni case against Nigeria (2001) with the Endorois case against Kenya (2010). Some of the analysis is a bit on the legalistic side but there is some very useful political and social context as well. Here is an excerpt to give you a sense:

Since the adoption of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) vs Nigeria (Ogoni) decision in 2001, no other verdict of the ACHPR has attracted more attention than the Endorois decision. While the Ogoni decision is the definitive authority for the proposition that a state party under the African Charter is culpable for failing to regulate the actions of a non-state actor (Shell Corporation), which have deleterious effects on the environment and the right to life of a community – the Ogoni – the Endorois decision goes further in at least three ways.

– Recent feature article on land issues in Brazil by DN Latin American correspondent (from his own blog). Not specifically minority related but gives an interesting sense of the broader dynamic. UPDATE – An Economist article cited in this article is still available for download – it focuses on the technological revolution that has fueled recent growth in commercial agriculture in Brazil.

– FCNM (Ramkonventionen) webpage with lots of useful resources.

DN editorial by Thomas Hammerberg and Anders Wejryd on Roma deportations from Sweden.

New York Times on how tensions over the current UN report alleging Rwandan responsibility for the killing of Hutu civilians in Congo echo those over a similar report that the UN chose not to release in the immediate wake of the 1994 genocide.

Week 40

– The European Court of Human Rights has prepared a fact sheet on its jurisprudence related to Roma and Travellers as part of a broader series of substantive guides to its jurisprudence.

– Slavoj Zizek’s take in the Guardian on how the Roma expulsions fit into a proposed new European political paradigm – “barbarism with a human face”.

– A very interesting opinion piece in DN by Olof Palme Center General Secretary Jens Orback and Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz on one of post-colonial history’s great forgotten self-determination controversies – the struggle of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara to become an independent country despite having been occupied twenty years ago by Morocco. The piece warns of the strong possibility of a destabilizing return to armed conflict and notes the role of the EU, which must soon decide whether to renew a coastal fishing agreement with Morocco that controversially includes the waters off Western Sahara.

– Short article in the Economist on prosecutions of Mapuche activists under a rather outdated anti-terrorism law in Chile.

– Last but not least for this week, Agenda just ran a fascinating piece on SVT 2 about the longstanding challenges to integration of Roma and Travelers (‘resande folk’) in Sweden. For the time being, they don’t seem to have uploaded tonight’s show but it should appear soon in streaming video. Meantime, here is the summary:

I veckan inleddes en rättegång om diskriminering av romska skolbarn i Vetlanda. Det väcker hemska minnen hos dem som var med under de så kallade Tattarkravallerna i Jönköping för sextio år sen, där stadens resande misshandlades medan polisen stod med armarna i kors.

The program included an interview with Maria Leissner of the Swedish government’s Delegation for Roma Issues and referred to the work of the Discrimination Ombudsman in the Vetlanda case.

Week 41

Another interesting comment on the Endorois case in Pambazuka.com – the director of the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission sees the decision as the basis for a bottom to top constitutional regeneration.

– The New York Times reports on how researchers documenting existing dying languages in northeast India stumbled on a new – and dying – language no one had ever noticed or documented before. Koro, spoken by only 800 people, for whom it represents a separate identity:

In the case of Koro speakers, Dr. Harrison wrote in his book, “even though they seem to be gradually giving up their language, it remains the most powerful trait that identifies them as a distinct people.”

– Our guest lecturer for next week, Petra Granholm, wrote a very interesting study (in Swedish) on the right of Nordic Sami to political participation two years ago. The report was published by the Aland Islands Peace Institute, which has a series of reports on autonomy and minority issues that can be downloaded for free.

– The right to political participation is guaranteed by Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN Human Rights Committee issued a general comment on state obligations under Article 25 in 1996. Two years later, the UN Economic Commission for Europe sponsored the Aarhus Convention, a groundbreaking regional treaty on freedom of information and political participation:

The Aarhus Convention is a new kind of environmental agreement. The Convention:

  • Links environmental rights and human rights
  • Acknowledges that we owe an obligation to future generations
  • Establishes that sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders
  • Links government accountability and environmental protection
  • Focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities in a democratic context.

– The International Law Observer blog has an overview of Sweden’s treatment in the Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council last May – quite a lot on Sami land rights and the controversy over ILO Convention 169.

DN just ran a debate piece on how the Sverigedemokraterna fit into Sweden’s national socialist legacy. The analysis hangs together ominously with a report by Richard Schwartz on Viennese political trends and BBC’s report on the renunciation of multiculturalism in Germany.

Week 43

– Here is a link to a short film on the conflict over oil exploitation in Ogoniland, Nigeria. Some background analysis on the film can be read here.

– A new ‘Edinburgh Declaration‘ has just been passed by virtue of which national human rights institutions have committed themselves to monitoring corporate social responsibility commitments related to human rights.

– Interesting commentary in the European Voice on how the current crisis over French expulsions may lay the ground for formal recognition of the Roma as a genuinely European minority.

– Discussion of integration in cities in an ongoing OpenDemocracy discussion on migration.

– An essay by Maciej Zaremba in DN explores how the mainstream parties’ reaction to the Sverigedemokraterna coming into parliament unconsciously reflected the type of majoritarian hegemonic behavior that made it so difficult for Swedish political culture to accept human and minority rights in the first place – and that Sverigedemokraterna arguably still stand for.

…and for next year’s course

OpenDemocracy on Georgia’s attempt to play on the 150th anniversary of Russian massacres of Circassians in the North Caucasus in order to destabilize the loyalties of Abkhaz separatists in the South Caucasus and cast a pall on the forthcoming Sochi Olympics.

Radio Prague on the failure of the Czech authorities to end discriminatory practices against Roma in educational facilities three years after a landmark ECtHR ruling.

– Human Rights Watch issues a new report condemning involuntary repatriation of Roma from Western Europe to Kosovo. As did Amnesty.

– Peter Vinthagen Simpson at the Local provides a brilliant lexicon (in English) of the Swedish populist right-wing.

– DN reports on the global land rush in Africa (‘Kontinent till salu’)

NYT reports on successful integration measures for Roma in Spain:

Spain has become so successful, in fact, that it now serves as a model for other European countries, including Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Some experts say Spain’s secret is that it has concentrated on practical issues, such as access to housing and jobs. In contrast, they say, some European institutions have concentrated too much on issues of prejudice and political rights.

Webpage for last October’s Council of Europe High-Level Conference on Roma, including the resulting ‘Strasbourg Declaration’.

Radio Prague reports on 40% dropout rate of Roma students in Czech Republic.

– Annabel Tremlett gives a constructively critical take on the idea of a European Roma Policy in Open Democracy.

– The New York Times reports on the uneasy politics of creating a Museum of Black History as part of the huge Smithsonian complex in Washington DC. How the story is told becomes the story, with some interesting shades of Kymlicka.

– Allan Schwartz of the Swedish Roma Delegation is critical of the Government’s ‘White Book’ project both in a Newsmill article last November and a more recent comment in Merit Wagner‘s blog.

– Once again, Radio Prague on integration of Roma in the Czech Republic, this time looking at faltering efforts at the municipal level.

– Last year’s guest lecturer Petra Granholm blogs for the Aland Peace Institute on her research on the Sami and Kven languages in northern Norway and her own Aland identity.

-There will be lots on this in the Swedish-language press as well, but here is The Local on the High Court decision upholding the grazing rights of Sami reindeer herders in Northern Sweden. Now that the Court has done the heavy lifting for the Government, one wonders if they will find the gumption to finally fulfill their longstanding pledge to ratify ILO 169.

-A very interesting comment in OpenDemocracy by Heather McRobie addresses the issue of (threatened) majority identity through the prism of the Royal Wedding in England last week and the brouhaha over Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Here’s the conclusion:

The ornate rituals in Westminster Abbey, and Donald Trump’s triumphant boasting seemed in this way to align the aristocratic elite in Britain and the white American capitalist elite: it revealed a very pre-modern fixation on blood as a marker of belonging, and heritage as a prerequisite for legitimacy to rule. And that two of the things modern power still finds most threatening are black men and female sexuality.  This is the enlightened, rational twenty-first century we live in.

– Ricki Neumann writes in Svenska Dagbladet today about how a recent seminar (‘Bortom multikulti’, blogged on here by one of the participants) has encapsulated a  new Swedish perspective on multiculturalism and integration. The author argues that multiculturalism is increasingly seen as too permissive and unquestioning of the tendency of some immigrant groups to oppress their own members through the perpetuation of traditions incompatible with Swedish laws and sensibilities. It seems that the continental debate on integration has finally crossed the Öresund.

– Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman has released a long-awaited report on the rights of the Roma in Sweden. The report is likely to be illuminating not only with regard to the situation of the Roma minority in Sweden but also with regard to the evolving view of the Ombudsman’s office on how attention to group-differentiated rights can be accommodated within its anti-discrimination mandate:

Rapporten beskriver DOs erfarenheter av att främja romers rättigheter i syfte att se hur långt detta arbete sträcker sig och vilka ytterligare insatser som behövs.

– Svenska Dagbladet reported on the ongoing tensions in Chile over Mapuche land claims. For all the talk about steps to improve the situation, it sounds as if the use of highly suspect anti-terrorism laws to prosecute indigenous rights activists has continued. The article also highlights near hysterical attempts by the previous government of Chile to get the US to place Mapuche activist groups on terrorist lists along with truly murderous outfits like FARC and ETA – all embarrassingly revealed by Wikileaks. SvD also picked up a story on a relaxation on Australia’s formal policy of recognition of its aboriginal population.

One response to “THS Minorities Course, Fall 2010

  1. Pingback: Behind the miner rescue headlines in Chile – a new settlement with the Mapuche | TerraNullius

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