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Sweden/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Government supported culture in Sweden should, according to the national cultural policy objectives, promote “international and intercultural exchange and cooperation”, as well as guarantee that “Everyone should be able to participate in cultural life”. It is today the established norm to recognise Sweden as a multicultural society. There are also funding schemes dealing with the national minorities and minority languages, mainly providing grants for projects in the fields of language and literature, and periodicals with cultural content.

In January 2000, the government decided that Sweden should ratify the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The officially recognised national minorities are the indigenous Sami people, the Swedish Finns, the Tornedalers, the Roma and the Jews. All of the national minorities have national cultural institutions. Examples are the Sami Theatre, the Sami Museum Ajtte, the Tornedalen Theatre, the Roma Cultural Centre in Malmö and the Jewish Museum. The indigenous Sami people is a national minority population with approximately 20 000 members in Sweden. There are also populations of Sami in Finland, Norway and northwestern Russia. The Swedish Sami Parliament (Sametinget) has been allocated an earmarked government budget for cultural activities, research and social development projects. Nordic cooperation exists both between the Sami parliaments and between the respective nation-state governments on Sami related issues.

Aside from these legally recognised national minorities, Sweden has a number of other cultural and linguistic communities, as the result of immigration in the last sixty years. 13% of the population is born in another country and 17% of the population have at least one foreign born parent. Many of these originate in other Nordic countries, the largest group being those born in Finland. Other major groups are people with a background in the former Yugoslavia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Chile and Somalia. An estimated number of 120 000 Assyrians/Syriacs live in Sweden, making it one of the largest cultural communities in the country. Many immigrant groups are organised in associations that receive government grants. In 2008, the Muslim Study Association Ibn Rushd gained the status of a study association recognised by the government, giving it access to funding for adult education and cultural activities.

The National Museums of World Culture is a government agency composed of four museums specifically charged with making a broader cultural heritage available to the people. The museums of world culture exhibit ethnographical and archaeological collections, from, among other places, Egypt, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, China, North America and Peru. The alleged tendency for these museums to focus more on current issues in Sweden, than on the historical contexts of their collections, has been the subject of recent criticism from both the political opposition and the media.

According to a report published by the National Agency for Cultural Analysis, The percentage of employees with a foreign background has remained at a constant level for a decade, just over 13 per cent, which was lower than the corresponding percentage of the population (20.1% in 2012). An underrepresentation has thus arisen in connection with an increase in the percentage of the population with a foreign background since 2004. The greater diversity in the population is not reflected in staff composition in the cultural sector. The agency’s assessment was that the cultural sector is now further from the target of reflecting the population than it was ten years ago.

For the present coalition government of the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, cultural diversity and working against racism have been prioritized areas in cultural policy. All recent national budgets have included measures intended to support diversity and inclusion, including increased support for civil society activities with this focus, and increased priority to cultural diversity and in policies directed at arts and heritage institutions, with special funding provided for, for example, the National Museum of History, and the National Museums of World Culture.

Chapter published: 16-05-2017

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