Federalism, Subnational Constitutions, and Minority Rights

Federalism, Subnational Constitutions, and Minority Rights

Federalism, Subnational Constitutions, and Minority Rights

Federalism, Subnational Constitutions, and Minority Rights

Synopsis

Whether federalism and subnational constitutions contribute to or undermine minority rights has long been a subject of controversy. Within the United States, the general view has been that federalism has been detrimental to minority rights. In contrast, other countries have seen federalism as crucial in safeguarding rights of ethnic and religious minorities. This volume provides the basis for a more nuanced assessment of the contributions of federalism and subnational constitutions to protecting minority rights by studying their impact in a variety of federal systems.

This work explores both mature federal systems (Switzerland, United States) systems in transition (Belgium, Bosnia, Herzegovina), both quasifederal (Italy, Spain) and well-established systems (Germany), both systems with considerable homogeneity of population (Austria) and systems with extraordinary diversity (India). It also analyses the various constitutional arrangements that federal systems have devised for safeguarding minority rights and given them a voice in political deliberations.

Excerpt

It has often been asserted, at least outside the United States, that federalism is the best instrument for protecting the rights of minorities. Countries throughout the world have adopted federal or quasi-federal arrangements, typically including a system of subnational constitutions, in order to accommodate racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities within their borders. Examples can be found in Europe (e.g., Switzerland and Spain), in Africa (e.g., Ethiopia), in Asia (e.g., India), and in North America (e.g., Canada). Still other federal systems such as Australia, Brazil, Germany, and the United States have component units whose borders were not drawn to accommodate minority groups, but these countries still must deal with issues of pluralism and diversity. Finally, systems emerging from authoritarian rule (e.g., Nigeria and Russia) have experimented with federal arrangements as a way to deal with ethnic and cultural pluralism.

Thus far, however, rigorous single-system analyses of the connection between minority rights on the one hand and federalism and subnational constitutionalism on the other have been rare. The lack of such studies has precluded meaningful cross-country comparisons. In addition, no comprehensive analysis exists of how federalism and subnatio-

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