Det juridiske fakultet

The global politics of northern European systems of population registration - A Bhalisa symposium

Global politics on population registration.


See full program


Over the last decade many countries around the world have begun to adopt the systems of comprehensive population registration that are common in northern Europe. The Indian Aadhaar project is the best known of these very large new identification databases, but similar systems have been announced in countries like Uganda and Tanzania. With the encouragement of donors, global technology firms, financial and tax regulations, and new models of digital welfare, something like a global movement towards systematic, computerised population registration is now well underway.

In this symposium we seek to assess the development, benefits, risks and futures of northern European models of civil registration and population registration in different national and socioeconomic contexts, and across international borders and to compare these models with the current experiences being promoted in developing countries. We aim to understand how the different models enhance inclusion or, on the contrary, exacerbate patterns of exclusion of particularly vulnerable categories of populations e.g. refugees, migrants, and the stateless.

Presentations will cover the following topics:

Institutional design

  • the routes to achieving universal registration of civil status events and comprehensive population registries;
  • the role of non-state identity providers, including the links between bank account information and national identification programmes;
  • Widespread sharing of data among government institutions for the purposes of identification of individuals, the provision of social services, and the compilation of national statistics;
  • the development of eID, and the new challenges of identity theft;
  • the potential incorporation of biometrics into existing systems;
  • the evolution of privacy law, institutions and regulatory capacity applied to these problems;
  • the development of systems of tax visibility and accounting.

Challenges of inclusion and exclusion

  • the complexity of incorporating vulnerable groups into identification systems;
  • the mechanisms to integrate immigrant and refugee populations into the national population register;
  • the consequences of deploying technologies of biometric identification in the management of migration and refugee status;
  • the impact of legal frameworks and the institutional design of identification and civil registration systems for access to citizenship and nationality.

For more information, please contact Jessica Schultz at jessica.schultz@uib.no


June 27th

Start time: 9:30

Place: (TBD)

Panel 1 Histories of Registration |  9:30 to 11:00 

  • Ian Watson The Nordic ID Tradition:  Five Countries, Five Systems
  • Walter Bartl Population Registers and Census Taking in Germany: A Contentious Relationship
  • Radoslaw Poniat Identification of domestic servants in Poland (17th–20th century)   

Coffee break | 11:00 to 11:30

Panel 2  Tax visibility and registration | 11:30 to 13:00

  • Helge Brunborg A brief history of Norwegian population registration 
  • Cláudio Muniz Machado Cavalcanti  Brazil’s CPF – from tax number to potemkin ID
  • Jonathan Klaaren Tax transparency and legal visibility

Lunch | 13:00 – 14:00

Panel 3  Nordic Systems and Problems | 14:00 to 16:00

  • Marianne Henriksen The Norwegian Tax Administration and the need for an holistic identity management
  • Tobias Wijk Swedish tax, population registration and identity management
  • Marte Kjørven & Tone Linn Wærstad Societal security and digital identities
  • Trude Åsrum The response to identity questions of refugees from Ukraine: the Norwegian experience
  • Pål Nesse – IDs and related obstacles to basic rights and integration for refugees and asylum seekers in Norway

Summation Reflections on Day 1

  • Comments Mia Harbitz

Dinner at Colonialen Litteraturhuset | 18:00

June 28th

Start time:  9:00am

Place: (TBD)

Panel 4 Capabilities and Exclusion | 9:00 to 11:00 

  • Romesh Silva Measuring the Invisible: Data and Estimates of the Population Lacking Proof of Legal Identity (Precirc)
  • Imke Harbers and Wendy Hunter  Social Policy and the Inclusion of Older Women in Registration Systems (Slides on the day)
  • Fernando de Medina-Rosales Documentation and Health: Challenges and Opportunities for Displaced Persons (Precirc)

Coffee break | 11:00 to 11:30

Panel 5 Capabilities and Digital Identification | 11:30 to 13:00 

  • Edgar A. Whitley and Emrys Schoemaker How can digital identity systems contribute to developmental social justice? Evidence from three digital identity initiatives
  • Babatunde Okunoye SDG 16.9 vs SDG 11: Situating digital Identity enrollment in Africa within the context of broader sustainable development goals. Nigeria as a case study. 
  • Silvia Masiero Digital Identity as Platform-Mediated Surveillance: A Study of Design Properties

Lunch| 13:00 to 14:00

Panel 6 Recent Histories (4 papers) | 14:00 

  • Alena Thiel, Byron Villacis (Berkeley), Daniel Capistrano (UC Dublin), and Christyne Carvalho da Silva (INEP) Statistical innovation in the Global South: vectors of translation in the population censuses of Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana and Sierra Leone
  • Georges Eyenga Undocumented at home? The identity tensions of biometric registration in Cameroon
  • Bidisha Chaudhuri & Baki Cakici ID infrastructure as memory practices and the future of democracy: A comparative perspective
  • Eve Hayes de Kalaf The Windrush Scandal in a transnational and Commonwealth context   

Concluding discussion |  16:00 - 17:30 

  • Comments :  Simon Szreter and Keith Breckenridge