Author Archives: AnnaG

Bergen Exchanges 2019 Program

This program is under development and will be updated. For a downloadable program, click here.

Monday 19 August
Corruption and Law

  • KEYNOTE: Louise Shelley Natural Resource Corruption – How to research and address it?
  • Bergen as a Human Rights City – Rights to the City
  • Political corruption and corruption as a political tool
  • Corruption in court

Tuesday 20 August
Indigenous Rights

  • KEYNOTE: Rachel Sieder Indigenous rights as political tools – struggles over land and identity
  • The Sami truth commission in a comparative perspective

Wednesday 21 August
Research Methods and Ethics

  • Research methods in socio-legal studies
  • Project presentations: Methodologies and findings
    • Researching sexual and reproductive rights lawfare, drivers of politicization and health effects of criminalization
    • Researching Backlash Against Democracy (Breaking BAD)
  • Methods workshops
  • Lunching with Judges: Ruth Rubio-Marin in conversation with judges on their path to and experiences on the bench, part of the ‘Women on the Bench’ research project

Thursday 22 August
Natural Resources and Climate Change Lawfare

  • KEYNOTE: Leo Heller (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Water) The human right to water as a governance mechanism and political tool
  • Climate change governance: global regimes, national interests, local norms
  • Environmental rights in court

Friday 23 August
Law and Technology

  • Law & Technology
  • Robot judging – threat to legal protection, or democratising access to justice?
  • Aadhaar and Social Credit  – challenges of regulating privacy
  • War on facts and responsible evidence appraisal in research for policy
  • Towards BeEx2020: Equality law and intersectionality
  • Innovative teaching on law and social change: student perspectives (part of the INTPART project)

Preliminary Findings

Initial findings from the project “Political Determinants of Sexual and Reproductive Health: Criminalisation, health impacts and game changers”

The project investigates health effects of criminalizing sexual and reproductive behaviour and health services, and analyses the political dynamics that drive, hamper and shape the uses of such criminal law in nine African countries, including both  predominantly Christian Sub Saharan countries (Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa) and North African Muslim countries (Sudan and Tunisia). Within each group there are countries with a long tradition of abortion on demand as well as countries where it is strictly criminalized – and on homosexuality the cases range from Mozambique, where same-sex relations were legalized in 2007 to legal provisions for the death penalty in Sudan.

The project aims to develop insights into political game changers that can improve conditions for sexual and reproductive health. Global health actors have sought to push for de-criminalisation of abortion and same sex relations but external pressure seems to trigger local resistance and backlash, and once abortion and homosexuality become politicized, public health evidence seems to have little traction among legislators and policy makers. And even when laws change, health policies, services and outcomes often do not. An effective de-criminalisation agenda requires better insights into the political and social dynamics – inside the health system as well as outside – and the proposed project aims to contribute to filling this gap.

Study investigating attitudes to homosexuality

A study investigating attitudes to homosexuality between and within African countries based on available survey data found that 8 in 10 Africans express anti-gay attitudes, but that:
law matters. People are less anti-gay in counties where same-sex relations are decriminalized and longitudinal data show that decriminalization is followed by decline in homophobia
religion matters. Anti-gay sentiments increase with religiosity. At individual level, there are small differences between denominations, but where overtly homophobic religions are strong (Evangelicals, Conservative Islam) more people of all beliefs are anti-gay.
poverty matters. Populations of poor countries are more anti-gay, as are the poorest segments within each country. At individual level, education is strongly associated more liberal attitudes.

Different attitudes across our ten case countries

Donor-supported LGBT rights activisms, triggered backlash in Zambia in 1998 (with claims that homosexuality is a Norwegian conspiracy). Activists switched to a health strategy, piggy-backing on HIV/AIDS programs. But our survey of 600 Zambian policymakers (parliament and local council candidates) cast doubt on the effectiveness of health framings. The vast majority opposes programs for LGBT even when presented with data on the high HIV rates.

Senegal was traditionally tolerant of goor-jiggens (men-women), but when the LGBT movement developed as part of HIV/AIDS programs for men who have sex with men (MSM) sexuality came center stage, triggering homophobia.

‘Closet activism’ (movement building, sensitization) is common in harsh conditions, such as in Sudan, where activists fear backlash from a homophobic society and a regime that codifies sodomy as a crime against God.

Kenya’s constitutional drafters included sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination, and triggered mobilization by conservatives who brought in a clause defining marriage as a union between adults of the opposite sex. Judges attitudes to homosexuality has become a focus in appointments. But legal strategies remain central and have brought advances.

Criminalization and politicization may have severe effects on mental and physical health. A survey of 1000 LGBT in Ethiopia found that sexual- and mental health problems were their main concerns, yet mental health is rarely a focus of MSM programs.

Findings from Kenya echo this: Criminalization and politicization creates fears that affect health seeking behavior. Non-use of services, non-disclosure, misdiagnosis; and poor data for needs assessment in turn impact design and implementation of health programming and the availability of acceptable, efficient services.

Liberalization of abortion

Abortion liberalization does not automatically bring health benefits. In Tunisia abortion laws have been liberal since the 1970s, but resource constraints have reduced access.

Ethiopia made abortion more accessible in 2005. Substantial gains are made, but barriers remain due to restrictive social norms and low awareness.

Political leadership was key when South Africa (1995) and Mozambique (2014) decriminalized abortion, despite resistance to universalization of access, providing autonomy to women’s choice. How conscious objection is understood by health care workers, is a focus of ongoing work.


PhD-course Leaders:

Siri Gloppen is Director at the Centre of Law and Social Transformation. Political scientist with a research focus in the intersection between law and politics. Siri Gloppen is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen. With a research focus in the intersection between law and politics her work spans legal mobilization and the role of courts in social transformation, democratization and institutionalization of accountability structures, constitution-making, election processes, human rights, transitional justice and reconciliation. Her main empirical focus is southern and eastern Africa.

Camila Gianella (MSc, PhD) is a researcher at CMI and a post doctoral fellow at the department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen in the project Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRR) Lawfare: Global battles over sexual and reproductive rights, driving forces and impacts, Dr. Gianella is also part of the team of two related project: Abortion Rights lawfare in Latin America and International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Lawfare. Gianella has a PhD from the University of Bergen.  In her dissertation she analyzed the process of implementation of a structural court decision from the Colombian Constitutional Court which asked for major reforms within the health system. Prior to her PhD from the University of Bergen, Camila worked as researcher and consultant for projects on maternal health, the right to health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, mental health and transitional justice.

PhD-course Coordinator:

Lara Côrtes is a Brazilian lawyer currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institutt (CMI) for the project Elevating Water Rights to Human Rights: Has it strengthened marginalized peoples’ claim for water? Based in Bergen since 2012, her previous experience at CMI has involved participation in several projects within the institute’s Angola Programme, with a particular focus on Angolan media. Côrtes has also been attached to the University of Bergen (UiB), first with a temporary position as associate professor for the course Brazilian studies and Portuguese language, and later as a researcher for the project POLAME: Poverty, Language and Media: the cases of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico.

Centre Coordinator:

Ingvild Aagedal Skage holds a PhD and MA from Department of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen. Her research interests include democratization, political parties, clientelism, social movements, urban poverty, and human rights (with an emphasis on LGBT-rights). Her empirical focus is on sub-Saharan Africa. Ingvild was also a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the New School for Social Research, New York, in Spring 2013.

Bergen Exchanges Volunteer Coordinator:

Oda Karoline Ringstad is a fifth-year law-student at the University of Bergen, and she is currently writing her Masters Thesis on cyber operations as “use of force” and “armed attack” under the UN Charter. As an intern, she is a pilot for the unit “Corruption & Law” and one of three editors of LawTransform’s monthly newsletter. Besides studies, Oda works as a research assistant at Chr. Michelsen Institute for prof. Siri Gloppen and as an assistant at Bergen Global.


Anna Gopsill is currently working as a Communications Assistant with Chr Michelsen Institute and PR Coordinator at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation. Additionally, Anna is a PhD candidate at the University of London School of Advanced Studies. Her topic is wartime sexual violence against men in Bosnia (1992-1995) and Rwanda (1994). She is examining forms of sexual violence perpetrated against men and will also look at the legacy of the Bosnian and Rwandan criminal tribunals and how they addressed sexual violence against men in their work.

Bergen Exchanges 2019

The Bergen Exchanges is a meeting place for scholars and practitioners from across the globe who seek to understand how law serves as an instrument of change – and how it shapes and is shaped by power relations. During a week of public discussions, we examine strategic uses of rights and law and how legal institutions function as arenas for political contestation (lawfare).

The multi-disciplinary and international nature of the Bergen Exchanges makes it a unique space for improving research strategies and methods to grasp the effects of law and lawfare. This includes the use of legal instruments by governments to shape societies – whether through constitutional change, international treaties, statutes or regulations – as well as by social actors who go to court or otherwise engage rights and law to advance their goals. Effects take different forms. How legal strategies alter political dynamics, ideas and discourses can be as important for long term transformation as more immediate changes in laws, policies, or the distribution of resources. We also seek to better understand the functioning of legal and administrative institutions as they adjudicate, interpret and implement legal norms.

In connection with the Bergen Exchanges, we have an annual, interdisciplinary PhD course on Effects of Lawfare. The PhD course is free of charge and open to applicants from Norwegian and international institutions on a first-come first serve basis (but out-of-town applicants have to cover their own travel and accommodation costs, as there are no scholarships available). Full programme and dates to be confirmed.

Assessing the Long-Term Impact of Truth Commissions: The Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Historical Perspective

Elin Skaar has written a book review of Anita Ferrara (2015) Assessing the Long-Term Impact of Truth Commissions: The Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Abingdon: Routledge)

The review appeared in The Irish Yearbook of International Law, Volume 11-12, 2016-17. It was written as part of the Beyond Words: Latin American Truth Commissions’ Recommendations project.

Read more: 

Thematic areas

The centre is made up of ten thematic research units. Each unit has a research leader and an intern to help promote ongoing activities in the unit.

LawTransform is made up of the following thematic units

Child Rights 

Corruption & criminal Law

Courts & Judicial Independence

Democracy & Law

Gender, Sexuality & the Law 

Health Rights

Inequality & Effects of Law


Natural Resources & Climate Lawfare

Transitional Justice 



The Centre has researchers all over the world who are active members of our research community. However, the heart of the centre is based in Jekteviksbakken 31 (the CMI/Juss II building). Most events take place at Bergen Global

Get involved!

Do you share our interest in how law shapes societies, and the use of rights and courts as tools for social change?

The interns and volunteers bring LawTransform alive by planning and organising activities throughout the year, and particularly during the Bergen Exchanges. Our “Coalition of the willing” consists of dedicated students, PhD scholars, and researchers. Interns hold co- responsibility for information and activities linked to a research unit (with the academic coordinator of the unit); develop and update webpages, profiling, organising events, PR and research assistance. Each research unit has an assigned pilot, an intern who has the responsibility of promoting the research of the unit. They coordinate with the research leaders to maximise the output from their unit. Our team of volunteers assist with the day-to-day organisation of the centre and events.

If you are interested in being an intern or volunteer at LawTransform, contact Marianne Lande-Sudall ( You can also contact our coordinator Ingvild Skage ( or Director Siri Gloppen (

About the Centre

What is the Centre on Law and Social Transformation?

Centre on Law & Social Transformation – LawTransform – is a network of scholars, students and practitioners who share an interest in how law shapes societies, and the use of rights and courts as tools for social change.

LawTransform was established in 2014 as a collaboration between the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and the University of Bergen (UiB). Fellows and affiliates come from numerous institutions in Bergen and globally, and are drawn from a broad range of academic fields, including law, political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, medicine and psychology.

Through a number of interdisciplinary research projects, we explore how law and legal institutions function, and how legal strategies are used as political tools (lawfare) to advance goals such as children’s- and migrants’ rights, health, sustainable development, peace and gender equality – and develop new methods to study the effects.

Structure of the centre

LawTransform is lead by Director Siri Gloppenco-director Malcom LangfordCoordinator Ingvild Skage and a Steering Committee of Unit leaders and representatives from collaborating institutions.  Anna Gopsill is PR coordinator at the centre. Marianne Lande-Sudall is volunteer coordinator.

The day-to-day organisation of the centre is run by our team of volunteers and interns. Each research unit has one responsible intern, known as a pilot. The pilots interact with the research leaders to promote the ongoing research in each unit and organise events related to the research.

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Bergen Exchanges 2018

We asked some of the people at the Bergen Exchanges on Law and Social Transformation to describe the Exchanges in one word. “Transformative,” “Inspiring,” “Collaborative,” “Comprehensive,” “Exhilarating,” “Diverse” were just a few of the words they used. It really was all this…and so much more!

The 2018 edition of the Bergen Exchanges was the biggest yet. Participants travelled to Bergen from institutions all over the world, from South Africa to India to the USA to Brazil, and beyond.  Academics, students, practitioners and activists came together to share their research and thoughts about how law and courts are used to achieve social and political objectives and the effects of such lawfare. It was great to see familiar faces from the global LawTransform family, as well as new participants. In all, there were 95 speakers and panellists at this year’s Exchanges, and 35 PhD students.

A packed and varied programme

The Exchanges offered a packed and varied menu of events. It included roundtables, panel discussions, lectures, debates and closed workshops. You can see the full program here. Among the wide range of topics and questions addressed were:

  • How law at the global and local level shapes people’s chances to live healthy lives – and how we can know
  • How criminal law – and politics – fundamentally affect sexual and reproductive health with findings from the Sexual & Reproductive Rights Lawfare and the Political Determinants of Health projects
  • Does Norway fulfil its international commitments to child rights?
  • How can children participate in decisions affecting their life? And when do – and should – their views prevail? with findings from projects at the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism
  • Law and technology: on how technological developments give rise to new legal challenges and the rise of robot lawyers and judges
  • Intersectionality – what is it? How can It be researched?
  • The human right to water with findings from the Water Rights project
  • Experiences of women judges part of the Women on the Bench project
  • Authoritarianism and constitutionalism in Africa part of the Breaking BAD project
  • Law and climate change: on how law affects the life of corals – and children who take governments to court over flawed climate policies

This year, the focus areas were Child Rights and Health and the Law. Monday and Tuesday where dedicated to debates about how law and health interact, kicked off by Norman Daniels,’ key note on human rights and fair priorities in health. On Thursday and Friday, the baton was handed to the Child Rights team with discussions probing a range of issues regarding the rights of children, ranging from how these are treated in national and international courts to how to best integrate children meaningfully into policy-making and formal legal proceedings. In her key note Helen Stalford shared her expertise on child rights within the migration process.

Leading legal anthropologist Sally Engle Merry delivered the Annual Lecture on Law and Social Transformation on Wednesday afternoon. Her timely address dealt with what happens when we measure social phenomena through indicators, how the construction of indicators shapes and distorts realities in the field – and why we still need them.

PhD Course

In addition to the open seminars, the Bergen Exchanges also hosted a PhD course with participants at different stages of their PhDs. The Effects of Lawfare course discussed the concept of lawfare – the strategic use of right, law and courts for political ends – and how to measure the effects of law. The varied backgrounds of the students opened up lively debates and discussions. Students had the opportunity to share their current research, or project proposals, for feedback from other students and experts in the field, a fruitful exercise for all involved.

The students also had the unique opportunity to have breakfast with Sally Engle Merry, and afternoon discussions with Norman Daniels and Helen Stalford where they shared ideas and gave advice about conducting research on challenging topics.

The PhD course is part of the LawTransform INPART project where the Centre on Law & Social Trnasformation, with partners in Brazil, India, South Africa and the US, aim to develop better and more research based teaching on law and social change.


However, the Bergen Exchanges is not all work it is also play! Every evening, there was a social event, a great opportunity to mingle and get to know everyone at the Exchanges. We were able to show our visitors some of the beautiful Bergen scenery with a nature hike through the hills to our director, Siri Gloppen’s house. We hosted the Evening Exchanges with panel discussions followed by dinner and entertainment led by our talented volunteers, course participants and academics. And after the Annual Lecture, the Municpality of Bergen – for the third year – generously hosted a reception for the Bergen Exchanges participants at historic Schøtstuene.


The Bergen Exchanges are made possible by a dedicated team of volunteers who helped during the week and assisted with preparations before the Exchanges. Our 23 volunteers generously spent their week – and more – ensuring that everything ran smoothly at the Exchanges and looking after participants. Thank you!

Bergen Exchanges 2019 – Watch this space!

We are now looking forward to the Bergen Exchanges 2019! If you have any questions about the Bergen Exchanges and how to get involved next year, contact LawTransform Director Siri Gloppen and Coordinator Ingvild Aagedal Skage at