Norwegian version

What happens when rivers get legal personhood?

Conference by the Riverine Rights research project

In late 2016 and early 2017, rivers in Colombia, New Zealand and India were given legal personhood. The research project Riverine Rights have studied the cases in detail: How and why did they happen, and what are their implications? 

Together with invited experts we discuss the successes and challenges of this legal novelty and place it in a broader context.

In a time of extensive environmental crises, does legal personhood offer new and promising ways of securing the life and wellbeing of rivers and those living with them? 

Can legal personhood and rights of nature be useful elsewhere? Is it applicable to a Norwegian context? 

Funded by The Research Council of Norway and by the Rights, Power and Accountability (RAPID) Research Cluster at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

  • Program

    Wednesday 28. August

    • 18.00 Film screening, The Atrato River, Colombia: Video presentation and discussion

    Thursday 29. August– Academic conference

    • 9.00 Welcome
      Axel Borchgrevink: Welcome. The Riverine Rights research project
    • 9.30 Rights of rivers and indigenous rights in New Zealand and Colombia
      Miriama Cribb: Beyond legal personhood for the Whanganui River: collaboration and pluralism in implementing the Te Awa Tupua Act    
      Comments by Mihnea Tanasescu
      Catalina Vallejo: The constitutional marasmus of the Atrato River
      Comments by Rachel Sieder
    • 10.30 Break
    • 11.00 Rivers and rights – experiences from India and lessons for legislation
      Bibhu Prasad Nayak: The legal journey of rights of rivers in India
      Rahul Ranjan: Religious environmentalism in India
      Comments by Kenneth Bo Nielsen
      Elizabeth Macpherson: Legal rights for rivers as a 'watershed' - Future directions in law and rights
      Comments by Grant Wilson
    • 12.30 Lunch
    • 13.30 Riverine rights and beyond
      John Andrew McNeish: The political ecology of river rights
      Comments by Rutgerd Boelens
      Malene Brandshaug: Rights of waters in Norway? Human-nature relations & environmental activism
      Comments by Camilla Brattland
      Axel Borchgrevink: River persons, rights and ontologies
      Comments by Gro Ween
    • 15.00 Break
    • 15.30 Riverine Rights – promises and challenges
      Introductory remarks by Mihnea Tanasescu, Grant Wilson, Catalina Vallejo and John McNeish.
      Open discussion by all participants.
    • 16.30 Break
    • 17.30 Film screening
      Documentary on the Whanganui River, Aotearoa New Zealand
    • 20.00 Conference dinner

    Friday 30. August– Open event

    • 9.00 Welcome
      OsloMet representative
    • 9.15 Rivers with rights in India, Colombia and New Zealand
      Introduction to the Riverine Rights project: Axel Borchgrevink, OsloMet
      The Ganges and Yamuna: Riverine Rights in India: Bibhu Prasad Nayak, Tata Institute of Social Studies Hyderabad, India
      Biocultural rights and community participation in the Atrato River Basin: Catalina Vallejo Piedrahita, EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia
      From riverine rights to collective responsibility for the Whanganui River: Miriama Cribb, Massey University, New Zealand
    • 10.30 Break
    • 11.00 Future prospects for riverine rights
      Environmental activism and rights of waters in Norway: Malene Brandshaug, OsloMet
      Riverine Rights across and beyond the case studies: Axel Borchgrevink, OsloMet and John McNeish, NMBU
      What can be drawn from the project? Comments from invited guests (Rachel Sieder, CIESAS, Mexico City; Kenneth Bo Nielsen, University of Oslo; Gro Ween, University of Oslo)
    • 12.30 Lunch
    • 13.30 Rivers, rights of nature and indigenous rights
      Rivers of history. Professor Terje Tvedt, Universitetet i Bergen
      Riverhood: Rivers and social justice movements. Professor Rutgerd Boelens, Universities of Amsterdam and Wageningen
      Perspectives on Legal personhood and Rights of Nature. Mihnea Tanasescu, University of Mons
      Indigenous and Sami participation in watershed governance and rights recognition. The case of the Tana River in Norway. Associate professor Camilla Brattland, the Arctic University of Norway
    • 15.30 Break
    • 16.00 Rivers and rights of nature in Norway and beyond?
      Rights of nature – the way forward? Grant Wilson, Earth Law Centre
      Panel debate: Are rights of rivers/nature a good idea for Norway? 
      Participants: Ande Somby, Arctic University of Norway; Camilla Brattland, Arctic University of Norway; Christina Voigt, University of Oslo
      Questions and comments from the audience
    • 17.30 Break
    • 18.30 Film screening
      Ellos Eatnu – La elva leve (Let the river live)

    Link for streaming of the Friday program will be put up here closer to the time of the conference. Please contact us if you wish to attend on Thursday but cannot come in person.


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