In 1986, the International Labour Organization (ILO) started a process aimed at revising its 1957 Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention (C107). This process was completed in 1989 with the adoption of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (C169). Simultaneously, national legal and political processes in many Western states addressed the rights of their own indigenous populations. These states voted in favour of C169, but only Norway chose to ratify it – indeed, as the first country in the world, in June 1990. This article details the internal political processes within the Norwegian government, to shed light on the significance of the domestic situation in Norway for its support for C169. We find that a low degree of perceived need for domestic changes may enable states to take a leading role in creating new human rights conventions. Furthermore, the participation of government officials in international horizontal and vertical policy networks may shape the policies of their ministries and thereby those of the state.