THS Minorities Course, Fall 2011

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 minorities and indigenous peoples. It is meant primarily as a resource for the course itself, but may be of interest to others curious about minority issues generally and how they play out in the Nordic countries in particular (NB: many of the links are to articles in Swedish, but these days, Google translate makes reading them lätt som en plätt). Students in the course may also find many of the linked resources from last year’s course helpful as well.

– I thought I might start out on a light note with a nicely tongue in cheek complaint by DN columnist Viktor Barth-Kron about the affrontery and endless sense of entitlement of a new cultural minority in Stockholm, namely bicyclists. Barth-Kron does a wonderful job appropriating all the tropes of the embattled bourgeouis majority being strangled by the strictures of political correctness. “We must dare to take up the debate … that is reaching the boiling point among ordinary people … chaos on the streets because of ‘traffic-political correctness’ … failure to show respect for the routines and conventions built up over generations by ordinary honest automobile drivers.”

Its all there and one wonders if he didn’t actually cut and paste some of this stuff from the creepy noveau-xenophobic Sweden Democrats’ political manifestos. Barth-Kron also makes an important real point, which is that the regrettable tendency for many Swedish men of a certain age to wear inappropriate tights and work out their mid-life crises by riding their bikes like lobotomized teenage yahoos is quite distressing to many, including fellow bikers like myself.

– On a more sober note, it would simply be inappropriate to begin a minority rights course that looks at immigration and integration issues without acknowledging the incomprehensible tragedy of the Utoye massacre in Norway, and the continuing political fallout it generated. For starters, as reported in DN, the Sweden Democrats have dropped 40% in opinion polls and wouldn’t make it back into the Parliament if an election were held today. Although it seems pretty obvious that this development relates to the not-insignificant political leanings they share with a psychopathic mass-murderer, it also comes as part of a broader trend whereby a stunning 4 of the 8 parties now represented in Parliament wouldn’t make the cut.

Week 35

Swedish international law heavyweight Owe Bring weighed in for Swedish support for the recognition of Palestine by the UN General Assembly this month in last Friday’s DN. His argument proceeded from the premise that the Palestinians are due the opportunity to exercise the right to self-determination and that doing so might force Israel to a more constructive approach to negotiations (echoing arguments put forward by PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas). However, DN responded with a realpolitik lead editorial pointing out the problems of recognising a state that does not clearly qualify on any of the three criteria (borders, population, effective control). In taking this line, DN was closing ranks with a broader ‘pro-Palestinian anti-statehood’ school of thought perhaps best expressed in a recent legal opinion by Oxford professor Guy Goodwin-Gill. The New York Times editorial page and other observers have also raised concerns that a vote for statehood will also derail the possibility of negotiations entirely, delaying yet further a sustainable end to the conflict. However, considering Israel’s current views that peaceful protest can be met with military force and that an investigation by the International Criminal Court would be an act of war, its not really clear what possbilities exist…

Also in last Saturday’s DN, former UN Legal Advisor Hans Corell picks up on another of the big debates in international law, namely the responsibility of states to provide minimum levels of protection to their citizens and the corresponding responsibility of the Security Council to enforce this rule by authorizing armed interventions when governments persecute their own people. By authorizing intervention in Libya but failing to do so in Syria, Corell argues that the Security Council risks undermining this norm. A similar theme was picked up recently by US Scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter, who argues in the Atlantic that this trend nevertheless represents an ongoing reconceptualization of sovereignty.

Week 36

Course author Thomas Hylland Eriksen remarks on the ‘debate on the debate’ in Norway in the wake of the Utøya massacre in Open Democracy. The discussion is interesting in part because it turns the arguments of anti-immigration extremists back upon them. Where right-wingers often argue that ignoring the ‘dark side’ of multiculturalism leads to risks of domestic terrorism, Norway has now demonstrated that ignoring the dark side of monoculturalism is no less dangerous. Hylland Eriksen’s discussion of the role of internet forums is also an interesting iteration of the ages old freedom of speech debate over where to draw the line on prohibiting hate speech.

More on Palestine – The Local reports that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt went for unilateral recognition, seemingly on his own initiative. Mr. Bildt denies the charges in his blog, claiming that he informed all coalition partners and even the opposition in advance, and that everyone else in Europe is doing it anyway:

I likhet med de flesta andra EU-länder använder vi nu beteckningen ambassadör på också den palestinska representanten här i Stockholm bl a som ett erkännande av de framsteg man gjort med sitt statsbyggande under svåra omständigheter.

Jesper Bengtsson writes in DN about the two Swedish reporters arrested by the Ethiopian security forces in the Ogaden region, which has historically been a bone of contention between Ethiopia and neighboring Somalia. Bengtsson criticizes the failure of Sweden’s quiet diplomacy to achieve the release of the reporters, and speculates about the possible role and motivations of the Swedish Lundin Group, which is involved in oil exploitation in the area:

Eller varför inte använda Lundingruppen som en murbräcka? Det svenska oljebolaget som specialiserat sig på att verka i etiskt problematiska områden, har verksamhet i Ogaden genom bolaget Africa Oil. Utrikesminister Carl Bildt har nära relationer till Lundingruppen. Kan han få sina gamla affärskompanjoner att lägga ett ord för Johan och Martin? Eller är utrikesministern rädd för att bolaget ska mista sin dyrbara koncession?

Eller kan det vara ett problem i sammanhanget att de båda svenska journalisterna under sin riskfyllda resa planerade att granska Lundingruppens roll i Ogaden? Det var trots allt när olja och gas hittades i provinsen som inbördeskriget gick från lågskaligt till fullskaligt krig.

Not the first time Lundin has come up in these pages in connection with internal conflict and secessionist movements in Africa, by the way.

Week 37

Radio Prague reports on how life in northern Bohemia is still not exactly a picnic for the Roma minority there.

Regarding integration in Sweden, a commentator in the Local accuses Swedes of treating immigrants as a ‘homogenous, deviant group’, and inspires a torrent of comments; another defends Swedes as a bit unapproachable but not racist, and a Swede demonstrates (in DN) some fairly subtle reflection on what it must be like to feel more Swedish when you are abroad.

Week 42

Who says European right wing populists are all the same? In Finland, the newly ascendant ‘True Finns’ appear to have gone on a mission to make their peers in other Nordic countries appear reasonable, well-spoken and even courtly. The Swedish-language Helsinki broadsheet Hufvudstadsbladet reports on a large shoe that True Finn parliamentary deputy Teuvo Hakkarainen administered to himself orally this week. Mr. Hakkarainen apparently suggested that those minorities in Finland that he finds particularly objectionable be deported to Åland, a small autonomous and Swedish speaking archipelago in Finland that he apparently also finds objectionable:

We can put gays, lesbians and Somalis [on Åland] to live together and we’ll see what kind of model society results. SFP [the political party representing Swedish-speakers in Finland] always blame us true Finns because we do not pay attention to minorities. With this solution, we would find out what model society is born and developed, said Hakkarainen … Then the Somalis can shriek whatever they want from their minarets, added Hakkarainen.

I don’t know what to say really. One only hopes that once the True Finns have had the opportunity to shriek whatever they want from their parliamentary seats for a full term, the Finnish voters will signal their interest in a more nuanced debate on immigration and minority issues.

Week XX

ECHR Blog reports on a new proposal by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to add a protocol on minority rights to the ECHR.


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