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Deliberative Democracy and Minorities

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>European Journal of International Law
Issue number3
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)507-527
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


This article examines the contribution that international law can make to the recognition of minority interests and preferences through a deliberative understanding of democracy. The deliberative model conceives of democracy as a free association of equal citizens who engage in a rational discussion on political issues, presenting options and seeking a consensus on what is to be done. The concern here is with how the deliberative model accommodates ethno‐cultural minority groups. The cardinal features of the deliberative model–equality, participation (i.e., inclusion) and consensus–are clearly attractive to hitherto marginalized groups. Like other minorities, ethno‐cultural groups demand a recognition of their status as equal citizens, and effective representation in the deliberative and decision‐making institutions and mechanisms of the state, notably national Parliaments. The pure deliberative model, outlined by Habermas in Between Facts and Norms, assumes that given sufficient time and goodwill, it is always possible to reach a consensus. On certain issues which affect ethno‐cultural minorities, however, a consensus cannot be reached. Democratic deliberation on questions of ethno‐cultural minority identity, this article argues, should not aim to establish uniform rules in all areas of public life, but to determine a constitutional arrangement that will guarantee the cultural security of the minority group. Where this can be established in common institutional and legal frameworks, this is to be preferred; where not, appropriate autonomy regimes should be introduced. Finally, the article considers the mechanisms through which this accommodation may be reached.