On the international level, there is broad consensus that it is essential to recognize and implement Indigenous rights as well as to correct inequalities and historical injustices. Yet many nation-states struggle with effective implementation: "National policies play a decisive role in the implementation of these rights. At the same time, such policies also clearly depend on public opinion", explains Fabian Bergmann, a doctoral researcher in the Cluster of Excellence "The Politics of Inequality" at the University of Konstanz.
Study in Norway and Sweden
In a recent study, Bergmann compared the political preferences of the Sámi, an Indigenous population in Norway and Sweden, with those of the majority population in both countries. He studied the level of support for political measures that grant the Sámi rights in the areas of language, self-administration and land use. The results paint a differentiated picture: On the one hand, Sámi respondents strongly support political agendas that clearly promote the self-determination of the Indigenous population. On the other hand, respondents from the majority population are sceptical of such agendas, but do not completely reject the implementation of Indigenous rights. Instead, the majority population prefers policy measures that allow for limited implementation of Indigenous rights for the Sámi.
Although Sweden and Norway have different national policies on Sámi rights, the attitudes of the majority populations in both countries are surprisingly similar. This suggests that a country's political context is not the only deciding factor in the formation of these preferences, but that social identity also plays an important role. Public opinion on Indigenous peoples' policies is of great relevance for democratic societies: "It is difficult to pursue effective policies for implementing indigenous rights if there is not enough support from the majority population for doing so", Bergmann says.
Individual rights vs. collective rights
Against the backdrop of Norway and Sweden's reputation as committed advocates of human rights, he concludes: "The majority of the Swedish and Norwegian population supports international human rights conventions. Yet these conventions only define individual rights, whereas the rights of Indigenous peoples are collective rights. In order to generate a similar level of support among the majority population for both the collective protection of Indigenous peoples and individual human rights, a great deal of persuasion still seems to be necessary".
- Original publication: Bergmann, Fabian 2023: "Divided Attitudes Toward Rectifying Injustice: How Preferences for Indigenous Policies Differ Between the Indigenous and Majority Populations of Norway and Sweden".
- Original data from a survey of the populations in northern Norway and Sweden focusing on the policy preferences of participants.
- Fabian Bergmann is completing his doctorate in the Cluster of Excellence "The Politics of Inequality" at the University of Konstanz on the topic "Horizontal Inequality in Egalitarian Societies? The Sámi in Norway and Sweden".