Institutional Design and Political Representation: the Council of Immigrant Organisations in Oslo


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Journal of International Migration and Integration;



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The city of Oslo has established a council of immigrant organisations (CIO). The city has designed CIO to have a double mandate: one from the city of Oslo and one from the immigrant organisations. The question raised in this article is how the city of Oslo’s design of CIO has an impact on its form of representation, its activities and its political position within local government. The article finds that CIO can legitimately claim to be a local council as the local authorities decide its main tasks and appoint the leader. CIO can also claim to be democratically representative as it is elected by the immigrant organisations. This gives CIO a choice of action, which it has used to develop its own activities independently of the city of Oslo and the organisations it represents. CIO’s activities are mainly to change the underlying majority way of thinking in the established state and municipal institutions, with the aim of adapting them to the minorities’ lives and cultures. Moreover, the article finds that the local authorities cannot implement a redesign without approval from CIO members. The authorities may decide to close CIO down by arguing that it does not produce the expected results, but this is problematic as long as CIO also is a descriptive representative council. The article concludes that CIO’s design gives it an ambiguous form of representation and choice of action, and that the political attempts to steer CIO confirms its ambiguous position within the local government.



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