Bergen Exchanges 2018

Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation

20 – 24 AUGUST 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation! 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).This year we have a special focus on health and the law and the rights of the child.

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.

The 2018 Annual Lecture will be held by Sally Engle Merry, who will speak on From human rights to local justice & the quiet power of indicators. Norman Daniels will give the opening key note address on Human rights and fair priorities in health. Helen Stalford will give a key note address on Children on the run.

Topics to be discussed during the 2018  Bergen Exchanges include:

*   How law shapes people’s chances to live healthy lives. This is addressed from many angles: what are the effects of rights, law and court rulings on inequalities in health?  Can law stem corruption in health systems? Prevent child obesity? How does criminal law produce health and ill health? What happens when children go to court to secure future generations’ right to a healthy environment?
*   Child rights. Is Norway fulfilling its international commitments?  How do child welfare services in different countries exercise discretion ‘in the best interest of the child’? How should cultural differences be taken into account in the implementation and enforcement of children’s rights? How should children’s right to participation be institutionalised – in the criminal justice system, and by immigration authorities?
*   Just health care. How can the right to health be protected when resources are scarce? And should priority be given to children’s health rights?
*   How politics and law determines sexual and reproductive health. What makes abortion, homosexuality and sex education so important for politics? How does legalizing abortion affect access to abortion care? Does it matter whether the abortion law is liberalized by the legislature or through court rulings? What are the health consequences of criminalising homosexuality? And does removing transgender as a diagnosis affect access to treatment for transgender people?
*   Intersectionality – how to best study the ways in which disadvantage on different dimensions interact?
*   Understanding backlash against democracy. Why do authoritarian regimes care about constitutions?  an what are the role of courts when democracies are backsliding
*   Experiences of women judges –  how do they get to the bench and what difference do they make?
*   Law and Technology
*   The human right to water. Can rights secure better access to water for poor people?

All events are public and participation is free of charge. Sessions are normally recorded. If this is a problem, please let us know. If you have a disability and require adjustments to participate on an equal basis with others, please let us know in advance at

The lectures, roundtables and panels bring together scholars and practitioners from all over the world, many linked to LawTransform as Global Fellows, Associates and collaborators on research projects. The events are open to everyone free of charge.

The special focus areas of the 2018 Bergen Exchanges are: Health and the Law and Child Rights. Details of the three keynote events are below. Click here to see the full program.

Annual Lecture on Law and Social Transformation

“From Human Rights to Local Justice and the Quiet Power of Indicators”

Sally Engle Merry New York University, USA

Date and Time: Wednesday 22 August, 15:30-17:30
Location: Bergen University Aula


HEALTH & the LAW Keynote Address

“Human Rights and Fair Priorities in Health”

Norman Daniels Harvard University, USA

Date and Time: Monday 20 August, 9:30
Location: Bergen Resource Centre


RIGHTS of the CHILD Keynote Address

“Participation for Unaccompanied Children”

Helen Stalford University of Liverpool, UK

Date and Time: Thursday 23 August, 18:00-19:30
Location: University of Bergen Faculty of Law, Auditorium 4

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). More information is available here. Applications for the course are now closed. This year close to 40 students from all over the world will attend the course (which is free of charge but out-of-town applicants have to cover their own travel and accommodation costs).

The Bergen Exchanges are made possible through contributions from the research projects that form part of LawTransform, whose research is presented throughout the Exchanges and by generous support from the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI); University of Bergen (UiB), in particular the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism (<>), the Department of Comparative Politics, and the Bergen University Fund; the Rafto Foundation; and the Mayor of Bergen.

Bergen Exchanges 2018 program

A cooperation between