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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research

LawTransform: Effects of Rights & Law

Alternative title: LawTranform: Effekter av lov og rett

Awarded: NOK 4.5 mill.

The main objective of the INTPART project “LawTransform: Effects of Rights and Law” is to develop innovative research-based teaching at the intersection of law and politics, with a particular focus on "lawfare", i.e. different actors' strategies for creating social change through the use of legal instruments - from the mobilization of rights in international treaties and constitutions, to legislation, trials before national and international courts. A main focus is on how we can understand and measure the effects of such lawfare, and how these dynamics play out within different fields and in different social and political contexts – not least in the global south. The teaching draws intensively on research carried out by the partners in the project-team. The teaching collaboration in turn contributes towards new research and to the building and consolidation of research networks. With support from the project, the interdisciplinary and innovative PhD course "Effects of Lawfare" has become a regular part of the courses offered by the doctoral program at the University of Bergen. This is a unique course where the international conference Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation (BeEx) is included as a central part of the course. This gives students the opportunity to actively discuss ongoing research with world-leading researchers. As part of the course, we also offer: i) structured and tailored mentoring meetings where students can discuss their project with relevant researchers from other INTPART institutions; ii) in-depth method lectures; iii) opportunity to participate in panels during BeEx, iv) good opportunities for networking. During the pandemic, the course was offered digitally and by building on these experiences we were able to offer a unique hybrid course in 2022, with a digital part (where the students worked in groups and received digital lectures from researchers at the various partner institutions) and a physical part in Bergen, as part of the Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation (students who did not have the opportunity to come to Bergen could also follow the BeEx sessions digitally). We have had very good experiences with this hybrid PhD-course model. The human and financial resources made available through the INTPART project have made it possible to constantly improve the course and develop it into a model that can be widely used. In 2022, our Brazilian partners offered a Latin American PhD course based on the same model. It focused on research ethics and after a week of digital lectures the students were able to participate in the regional BeEx conference in São Paulo, Brazil. We have also used the course to further develop existing MA and BA course offerings at UiB and partner institutions. At UiB, this has particularly been linked to the interfaculty course "Constitution, Court and Politics". The collaboration has also provided the basis for several new project ideas and project applications, and several of these have been approved.

A central outcome of the project has been to consolidate LawTransform and Bergen as a global hub for research on the role of law in social change, with particular focus on the global south - and as a centre for innovative learning on the dynamics and effects of using rights, law and courts as political tools and arenas. We now have a network of more than 150 scholars from across all regions and a infrastructure for maintaining it. Through intensive collaboration between the nine partner institutions, the project has developed a new model for integrated and hybrid PhD courses (the BeEx-model) and a range of collaborative and digital modalities for BA and MA courses. The BeEx model integrates a PhD course with a one-week international research conference. This provides the students access to cutting edge research and leading researchers in the field, with ample opportunities for engagement and mentoring. The course is hybrid in that it combines two weeks of innovative digital teaching and group work with one week of physical on-site engagement (with the opportunity of take the whole course digitally). This model has been successfully adapted to the Latin American regional context in collaboration with a Brazilian partner institution and other partners are interested in adopting the BeEx model to their counties and regions. Another important outcome of the project is new, innovative research expanding the state of knowledge in the field. The project has enabled this by a) facilitating implementation of and communication of results from ongoing research projects 2) stimulating the development of new research projects, five of which have so far been funded and 3) enabling research to be conducted as part of the project development process itself.

The aim of this grant application is to strengthen the University of Bergen/LawTransform as a leading centre for research and education on law and social change. It will do so by forging long-term partnerships with internationally leading socio-legal research and -educational institutions and serving as a global hub for exchanges and collaboration on research projects and teaching. Our partners are all outstanding research and higher education institutions from Brazil, India, South Africa and the United States, with complementary expertise a common vision. The partnerships will contribute to the advancement of research and education of the highest quality by (i) developing new research projects deepening our efforts to develop better tools for understanding the role of law and courts in the social production of (in)equality and the use of rights and law as policy tools and strategies for social change (ii) build on this to provide innovative and relevant interdisciplinary research-based education, including online- and field based courses, and joint virtual MA and PhD programs University of Bergen has the potential to become a world leader in this field. Since LawTransform was established (August 2014) it has built an extensive base of international research projects, merging and developing academic networks; it has established a successful PhD course on 'Effects of Lawfare', now in its third edition; and organised a wide range of seminars and events, including the 'Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation', an annual week packed with public seminars and workshops related to ongoing research at the centre. This has become a stimulating meeting place for scholars, students, as well as practitioners (judges, policy-makers, activists). The Bergen Exchanges, with its extensive academic and social program is - along with the joint research project and the online platform (webpage, Facebook, Twitter,Vimeo) - key to building a cohesive international network.

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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research