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A focus on governance

The Bergen Summer Research School 2014 took place in June-July. This year the focus was on Governance to Meet Global Development Challenges.

Stock photo of conference table of the world surrounded by chairs.
GLOBAL ISSUES: The Bergen Summer Research School 2014 takes place between 23 June and 4 July and this year the focus is on global governance.


First out was the lecture “The role of governance in the transition towards sustainable food systems”, where the key note speaker Professor Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, spoke about the right to food and how to create better governance in food distribution.

This was the seventh year of Bergen Summer Research School (BSRS), which is aimed at PhD candidates from all disciplines. It takes place over two intense weeks each year in late June-early July. Past topics have been linked to specific global challenges such as climate change, health, poverty, cultural values, migration, and most recently, food.

Students as well as teachers, come from all over the world. Scientific input from both north and south is of great importance for the University of Bergen (UiB) which has global and development-related research as one of its two priority areas.

‘Governance’ involves rules and regulations, how they are practised, and for the benefit of whom. The biggest governance challenges encompass were power is concentrated, who has the power to shape the rules of the game, and what interests that count.

"This year we want to highlight that none of the major development challenges can be solved without developing better institutions for governing society and the use of scarce resources – globally, nationally and locally – so that basic needs can be met, also in the future," says Siri Gloppen.

Gloppen is a professor at UiB’s Department of Comparative Politics and was the chair of the scientific committee for BSRS 2014.

Inspiration and knowledge

"Bergen is a wonderful city, especially in the summer, but the main reason to attend BSRS is that it provides a unique opportunity to gain new, interdisciplinary insights into key global challenges – not to mention inspiration and knowledge to help solve them," says Gloppen.

This summer, PhD candidates can choose between six courses. ‘Differentiated Citizenship’ will focus on challenges associated with the growing number of the world’s population situated beyond the home state's borders. ‘Studying Governance from Above and Below’ address challenges to the prevailing development policy models, including from the Global South. ‘Governance for Global Health ’, ‘Climate Change Governance and ‘Marine Governance’ are all based on the need to bridge the gap between research and policy – and between different forms of knowledge.

Complex issues arise when these challenges must be dealt with in the intersection between the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. These issues are the subjects of several of the courses.

"A major challenge here is how to deal with the uncertainties that are inherent to research findings, especially when the object of investigation represents something radically new, which is typical of the major global challenges facing the world today. How do we account for and communicate this uncertainty without undermining the sound knowledge that science can contribute?" asks Gloppen.

More than politics

On one level ‘governance’ is about politics, in the sense that it determines “who gets what, when and how”. This involves political institutions and decision-making processes and depend on the underlying power structures that make them function as they do.

“But ‘governance’ is also about norms and what we perceive as right and just. And it is about the law and how different regulatory regimes impact the processes of nature they seek to regulate. It concerns how regimes are received in different cultural, social and economic contexts, how we understand these processes, and how they are communicated. This raises questions involving the natural as well as the social sciences and the humanities,” explains Gloppen.


BSRS focuses on challenges that are inherently interdisciplinary. It is therefore crucial with contributions from all relevant disciplines. All faculties at UiB, along with researchers from the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), the Uni Rokkan Centre and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research will contribute at this year’s Summer School, along with scholars from other parts of the country and the world.

The course on ‘Climate Change Governance‘ is an example of how interdisciplinary the courses may be.

“In this course students will learn about the science of climate change and its consequences for the physical life on the planet. They will get an overview of the research on the social impacts of climate change, and political science research on how policy is shaped in the face of these challenges and which institutions that provide the best climate policy,” says Gloppen.

“We will also look at legal research on international climate conventions, multidisciplinary research that measures people's attitudes to climate change and that seeks to understand how public opinion is formed. It also features media and linguistic research on how climate science is communicated, and philosophical research on climate justice,” she continues enthusiastically.

Open events

The plenary events are central to BSRS. At these events, which are open to the public, international experts provide insight into the various themes of the courses.

In addition to these keynote lectures, there will be panel discussions on issues of global governance that fall outside of the courses such as corruption and natural resource management. BSRS also collaborates with the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre on a plenary session about the new Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Besides the opening keynote by Olivier De Schutter, another highlight is Rafto Prize laureate Nnimmo Bassey, the profiled and charismatic climate activist, poet and architect from Nigeria, will hold a plenary lecture on climate change and climate justice.

For those of you who use Twitter or other social media, the official hashtag for the Bergen Summer Research School 2014 is #bsrs2014.