Will Kymlicka on “The Internationalization of Multiculturalism”

Guelph University, November 13th, 2004

Gap between theory and practice of liberal democracies in the world. The legal status of Aboriginals is different for French groups and Immigrant groups (bi-lingualism & federalism & multiculturalism)

These three types of groups typically exist in many democracies, but not some, such as Spain.

The problem is that a theoretical view of these practices (of different group rights) does not exist. Group rights do not come up in 17th Century liberal democratic theory. Liberal theorists are skeptical of group status claims. They view liberal democratic rights (i.e autonomy) as threatened by group rights. Kymlicka wants to close this gap between theory and practice as in a “Liberal Theory of Minority Rights”

This concerns a domestic democracy. What about an internationalization of minority rights?

The World Bank, International Labour Organization and United Nations have all been involved in a codification of international norms for the protection of minority rights.

This codification poses challenges for domestic constitutionalism – many conflicts.

Kymlicka focuses on the European context.

1989: Fall of Berlin Wall, Post-Communist countries wanted to join the Western nations, EU and NATO. The West was confronted by “all these countries knocking on the door to join the West”.

The Western states said that respect for minority rights were part and parcel of being part of the family of liberal democracies. (i.e. they did not want ‘spiralling ethnic conflict’)

EU and NATO did not have stipulations on what minority rights that post-com countries had to meet. But there were two ways:

(1) Formulate norms that apply to ALL minorities- despite their historical contexts. No differentials. (This is the UN strategy)

However, it is very hard to think of rights that would apply to all minorities; therefore, these are NEGATIVE RIGHTS! These rights say what people have universally.

(2) Formulate noms that apply to certain groups in the form of POSITIVE RIGHTS. For example, in the U.S. right now, there are rights pertaining to Migrant Workers and Indigenous Peoples.

What about Homeland National Minorities? What are their rights? There are no international norms related to these groups: Eritreans/Tigray in Ethiopians; Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, etc.

UN wanted to address this problem: “Framework Convention For the Protection of National Minorities”. Where do these norms come from? International lawyers had to look at existing international law and there were two foot holes in the Convention of Civil and Political Rights.

ARTICLE 1: All peoples have a right of self-determination.

ARTICLE 27: Members of National Minorities Have The Right to Enjoy Their Culture

Neither of these as traditionally understood were helpful to the EU & NATO in 1990s because Article 1 includes the right to secession and Article 27 was too weak to be of much use. (It was in essence a Negative right)

How to fill the gap between Article 1 and 27? The ideal includes rights short of secession but more than simply the right to enjoy oneÂ’s culture. How to do this?

Strategy #1: Start with Article #1 by limiting the idea of self-determination to the right of self-government (control of public institutions) but NO right to secession.

Most advocates for minorities wanted to promote Internal Self-Determination (to weaken Article #1) for National Minorities.

U.N. Draft Declaration of Indigenous Peoples does recognize the right of territorial autonomy

This strategy DID NOT WORK because most countries in Europe were vehemently opposed to Internal Self-Determination of their minorities.

Among various other reasons, were two theoretical ones: Theory of Proliferation (if you give rights to some, you will have to give the same rights to others) and Theory of Escalation (Internal Autonomy was viewed as a stepping stone to nation-state building)

Strategy #2:
Was to beef up (strengthen) Article #27

Kymlicka thinks only token changes were made, i.e. dual language education and dual language signage, publicly funded primary education (not secondary)

These changes did not address the real issues minorities wanted to promote; namely, claims to official language status, claims to land.

Thus both options ran into dead-ends.

Strategy #3: “A Right to Effective Participation” = new buzz word, a lot of enthusiasm for this idea because a) sounds democratic b) avoids the adamant danger of making substantive assumptions about minority interests (i.e. does not imply that minorities want to secede like Article #1 -and its amelioration- did)

“Recommendation on the right to effective participation.”

This idea has not yet succeeded.

What is required for effective participation?

1) Citizenship- i.e. Russians in Balkans did not have citizenship; need to pressure Estonia and Latvia to recognize the Russians.

2) A norm of Representation, for minorities to be proportionately represented.

The problem is unconstrained Majority Rule; so the problem is less about 1) Citizenship and 2) Representation; so there was no effect in “effective participation”

Again, what would be required for effective participation of national minorities?

Veto System, Power sharing. The problem is that states were never going to let groups gain power because this is internal self-determination through the back door!

Philosophical Problem:

Indigenous Groups vs. National Minorities vs. Immigrant Groups

Conceptual Problem:

What are their differences?

Normative Push: no strong norms for Minority Protection in Europe!

Failed experiment on the question of national minorities? Is it feasible to make different norms for different groups? There is no political theory that helps us here. So Multicultural Constitutionalism works domestically not internationally.

My Question: Was the internal self-determination of national homeland minorities rejected by the EU and NATO in the 1990s on a theoretical basis alone (i.e. theories of proliferation and escalation?) Couldn’t it be argued that there is no evidence for its success/failure? If minorities were given rights for self-determination, institutions, education, perhaps secession wouldn’t be the natural option. I.e. if viable institutions were allowed to develop for education of minorities perhaps they could eventually participate effectively.

© Helen Tewolde 2004