Photo: Siri Gloppen

Lise Rakner

Professor at University of Bergen and Affiliated Research Professor

Democracy and key human rights are facing an increasingly hostile climate across the globe. The new Norwegian government has made strengthening human, civil and political rights a key feature of their foreign policy priorities and they point to civil society as a key player in this process. But an important part of the backlash against democracy and human rights is that the space for civil society is closing. We are thus facing a situation where it is increasingly important to cooperate with and promote civil society, but increasingly difficult to do so.

What can international actors to engage and assist in building a civic space in this context? How can they assist in promoting the right civil society voices without them being labelled foreign agents? Should civil society be seen primarily as service providers and work at the individual level, or should we prioritize actors working on advocacy and organizing collective action? 

As part of our focus on the closing space for civil society in the Chr. Michelsen Lecture, we are organizing a conversation on this question with voices from academia, civil society and politicians. 


Professor Brian Raftopolous, Zimbabwean scholar and activist, Director of Research and Advocacy in the Solidarity Peace Trust/Ukuthula Trust

State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte, Norwegian Foreign Ministry

Kari Helene Partapouli, Director, The Development Fund

Liv Tørres, Executive Director, Nobel Peace Centre

Lise Rakner, Professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, Senior Researcher, CMI

Chair: Svein-Erik Bøthun HelleCoordinator, Governance and Democracy, Post-Doctoral Researcher, CMI/University of Bergen