Our Work


RIVERS draws on Lieselotte’s research in Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador:

Invited guest co-editor with Denisse Roca Servat (Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia) Special Issue Antípoda. Revista de Antropología y Arqueología N34 (2019) Water and other Knowledges: Making the Plurilegality of the Right to Water Visible, Available at: Antípoda

Viaene Proyecto hidroeléctrico Xalalá y DDHH maya q'eqchi' Guatemala




LViaene and GFernández-Maldonado Legislating legal pluralism in Ecuador - 2018-1


  • Viaene, L. and Fernández-Maldonado G, 2018, ‘Legislating coordination and cooperation mechanisms between indigenous and ordinary jurisdictions: reflections on progress and setbacks in Ecuador’, in Corradi, G., De Feyter K., Desmet E. and Vanhees K. (eds.), Critical indigenous rights studies. New directions in indigenous rights research, Routledge, pp. 201 – 226. Available at Researchgate and Academia.edu

Rivers Events

Seeking Justice after Genocide

Emprical Dialogues in Human Rights

Inside Rwanda´s Gacaca Courts. Seeking Justice after Genocide

Bert Ingelaere ,University of Antwerp (Belgium)

Getafe, University Carlos III Madrid

After the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, victims, perpetrators, and the country as a whole struggled to deal with the legacy of the mass violence. Neighbor had attacked neighbor, and once the killing was over, genocide survivors often lived near those who had murdered their family members or friends. Rwanda’s government attempted to deal with this situation by creating a new version of a traditional grassroots justice system called gacaca. This seminar examines what the gacaca courts set out to do, how they worked, what they achieved, what they did not achieve, and how they affected Rwandan society. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the Rwandan countryside, I rely on vivid firsthand recollections, interviews, and trial testimony from victims and perpetrators, witnesses and lay judges alike. The findings demonstrate how this grassroots process got rerouted under the weight of the Rwandan state and through the pragmatism of the Rwandan peasantry. By providing rich evidence from the Rwandan grassroots, this seminar will discuss what – at the grassroots and beyond – is at stake for next generations and – also beyond Rwanda – what can make a difference when societies worldwide attempt to deal with the legacies of mass violence and human rights abuses.


Bert Ingelaere is assistant professor at the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB), University of Antwerp (Belgium). He chairs the Great Lakes of Africa Centre.  His research focuses on the legacy of mass violence, mobility and the process of knowledge construction. He has undertaken over 40 months of fieldwork in Africa’s Great Lakes region. He was advisor or expert for international NGOs, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The World Bank, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and a postdoctoral fellow at  the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders (FWO) and the Program on Order, Conflict and

Violence (OCV), Yale University.

International Indigenous Knowledge Brokers at the UN: Impact, Challenges and Pitfalls

International Seminar

International Indigenous Knowledge Brokers at the UN: Impact, Challenges and Pitfalls

Vicky Tauli-Corpus and Anne Nourgam

8 November 2019

Getafe, University Carlos III Madrid

As part of RIVERS launch, Vicky Tauli- Corpus (Kankanaey Igorot, Philippines), UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and and Anne Nourgam (Sami, Finland), the Chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues have given a seminar in Getafe campus called “International Indigenous Knowledge Brokers at the UN: Impact, Challenges and Pitfalls”. This seminar was also part of the graduate course “Social movements and transnational Actors” of Prof. Dr. Viaene.

During the seminar, the participants discussed the political struggles of indigenous people and how they were able to obtain a more prominent presence in the higher-level bodies within the UN universal human rights protection system, including the story of their own communities and how they took their struggles in international level. Tauli-Corpus, who has been involved in the negotiation processes in UN from the beginning stated that indigenous people have tried very hard to gain their rights and they are one of the most successful social movements in terms of utilizing the UN, although most things are still not implemented the way they want. Nourgam similarly mentioned the story of Sami people and how the first Sami parliament in Finland was established and how they found their way into the UN system. At the end of the seminar, the students asked questions about many issues such as the biggest challenges they encountered during their struggles, the most successful states in terms of respecting indigenous peoples rights, the role of European Union in the process. You can watch the whole seminar from our YouTube channel.

The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution or Ontological Conflicts?

International Seminar

The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution or Ontological Conflicts?


Getafe, University Carlos III Madrid


On the third day of the launch of the RIVERS project, the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), hosted in its Main Hall, the opening ceremony and international seminar ‘The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution or Ontological Conflicts’. With a welcome remark of the representative of the vice-chancellor and the director of the Department of Social Sciences, who expressed their gratitude and congratulations to the team of the ERC RIVERS project, the seminar was introduced by professor Lieselotte Viaene. Lieselotte, RIVERS’ principal investigator, narrated the vital and academic journey that gave birth to the project as well as its main goals and challenges. Talking about the Colombian context, Belkis Izquierdo, indigenous magistrate of the Colombian Special Jurisdiction for Peace, shared her experience to foster the recognition of indigenous territories as victims of the armed conflict. For his part, Dambar Chemjong, head of the anthropology department of Tribhuvan University in Nepal, talked about both his personal and academic experience dealing with indigenous territorial rights. In the context of international law, Victoria Tauli-Corpus, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, critically approached how the rights of nature are being approached by ‘conservationists’ who do not take indigenous rights seriously. Subsequently, Anne Nuorgam, chair Of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, tackled how Sami people are relating with their ancestral lands as well as their resistance processes against the fishing ban in Finland. The seminar was moderated by Guillermo Fernández-Maldonado, deputy representative of OHCHR-Colombia.

Photo Credits: Carlos Argueta

Pueblos indígenas y justicia transicional en América Latina logros y desafíos poster

Seminario Internacional

Seminario internacional: Pueblos indígenas y justicia transicional en América Latina: logros y desafíos

7. 11.2019

Getafe, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

En el segundo día del lanzamiento del proyecto RIVERS, la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid fue la anfitriona del seminario internacional ‘Pueblos Indígenas y Justicia Transicional en América Latina: Logros y Desafíos’. Moderado por el profesor Javier Dorado Porras (Instituto de Derechos Humanos Bartolomé de las Casas), el panel contó con la presencia de Lieselotte Viaene, investigadora principal del proyecto RIVERS, quien evaluó críticamente el eurocentrismo que ha sustentado las reflexiones en torno a la justicia transicional y propuso herramientas metodológicas para descolonizar su aparato epistemológico. Guillermo Fernández-Maldonado, representante adjunto de OHCHR-Colombia, expuso su experiencia con los sistemas de justicia transicional de Guatemala y Colombia, señalando los logros y desafíos más prominentes para alcanzar verdad, justicia, reparación y no repetición en contextos transicionales latinoamericanos. Por su parte, Belkis Izquierdo, magistrada indígena de la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz de Colombia, compartió su experiencia al interior de la Sala de Reconocimiento de Verdad y de Responsabilidad, llamando a un diálogo intercultural que tome las culturas indígenas en serio.  El último ponente, Alejandro Quiceno, expuso el trabajo de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición de Colombia, como funcionario la alta entidad para la construcción de una paz estable y duradera. Después hubo un debate con el público sobre diversos aspectos de los logros y desafíos de la justicia transicional en territorios indígenas.


Colombia: Un Pais de Eterno Conflicto
Documental: Testigos de un etnocidio, memorias de resistencia

Dirigido por Marta Rodríguez, Colombia


Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Madrid


En medio de un recrudecimiento de la crisis humanitaria de los pueblos indígenas de Colombia, enfrentados a una avalancha de asesinatos selectivos, que ha crecido después de la firma de los acuerdos de paz entre el gobierno del expresidente Juan Manuel Santos y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC-EP), se proyectó en el Museo de Antropología de Madrid el documental ‘Testigos de un Etnocidio, Memorias de Resistencia’. En el contexto del acto inaugural del lanzamiento internacional del proyecto RIVERS, la proyección fue precedida por un cine foro que contó con la presencia de Belkis Izquierdo (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, Colombia), Guillermo Fernández-Maldonado (Oficina de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, Colombia), Kelly Quilcué (indígena Nasa, Proyecto RIVERS), y Calixto Suárez (mamo del pueblo Arhuaco, Colombia). Moderado por Lieselotte Viaene, investigadora principal del proyecto RIVERS, el conversatorio puso de presente tanto la pertinencia del enfoque cinematográfico de Marta Rodríguez, directora del documental, caracterizado por conectar las secuencias del pasado histórico con las trazas del presente y el porvenir; como la evidencia palmaría, de que el genocidio indígena no es una cuestión colonial, sino un hecho que de acuerdo a la Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia ONIC, está en curso.


Empirical dialogues in human rights

Human Rights Research Methods and Across Disciplines: Interdisciplinary and Multimethods Research

Siri Gloppen, University of Bergen (Norway)

Getafe, University Carlos III Madrid


Traditionally there has been a major cleavage between legal scholars and the social sciences: the former have examined the structure and normative content of law from the perspective of legal theory and jurisprudence. The social silences, on the other hand, to the extent that they have been concerned with the law at all, have largely disregarded the normative content. Focus has been on explaining judicial decision and legal developments based on factors beyond the law (such as who appointed the judges), and on the social and economic consequences of various forms of legal ordering. More recently this has started to change. Increasingly disciplinary barriers are growing more porous. Legal scholars are collaborating with political scientist, anthropologists, psychologists, economists, computer scientists and others, to integrate empirical methods with legal scholarship. This lecture will present some examples of interdisciplinary and multimethod work into human rights from projects based at the CMI-UiB Centre on Law & Social Transformation, focusing on the right to water; land; health; and sexual and reproductive rights.  As well as projects enquiring into the role of courts and law in democratic backlash.

Bio note

Siri Gloppen is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute for research on global development and justice,  and Director of the CMI-UiB Centre on Law & Social Transformation. She has been research coordinator at PluriCourts (Oslo University Law School); visiting researcher at Harvard University and affiliated researcher at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi. Gloppen’s main focus is theory building and empirical research into the social function of law and courts. This includes the dynamics and effects of lawfare processes: the use of law as a political strategy where social contestation is played out by mobilizing rights and law in different spaces. This ranges from litigation in domestic and international courts and tribunals to legislation, constitution-making and ‘rights talk’, and is engaged by actors within government and political parties as well as civil society actors.


The Anthropocene and the Law in Asia

The ALSA Presidential session “The Anthropocene and the Law in Asia”

Annual Asian Law and Society Association (ALSA) “Expanding Asia: Changing Law and Social Justice”

12-15 December 2019
Osaka, Japan

Lieselotte Viaene “Can Rights of Nature save us from the Anthropocene catastrophe? Critical reflections on the emerging ecological jurisprudence.

Chair: Hiroshi Fukurai, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Other panel members: James Prest, Australian National University; Craig Martin, Washburn University School of Law; Peter Rush, Melbourne Law School and Isabelle Giraudou, The University of Tokyo

Info ALSA & programme book 2019 conference

European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) AGM “Europe, knowledge politics and bureaucracy: anthropological perspectives”

28-29 October
Brussels, Belguim

Workshop “The EUropean Law, Bureaucracy and Governance of Anthropology”

Lieselotte Viaene “European Research Ethics Standards vs decolonial participatory anthropological research?”

Chair: Mariya Ivancheva (University of Liverpool) Discussants: Cris Shore

(Goldsmiths, University of London) and Joël Le Déroff (Project Adviser Ethics, ERC

Executive Agency). Other panel members: Cassandra Yuill (City, University of London) and Rita Astuti & Alice Tilche (London School of Economics)

More info EASA & programme AGM 2019

Deep Dive: Onto-seeding Societal Transformation

Hosting InstitutionsInstitute for Advanced Sustainability Studies and Commons Strategies Group

9-12 September 2019
Neudenau, Germany

Hosting team: Zack Walsh, Thomas Bruhn (IASS); Silke Helfrich, David Bollier (CSG);

Brooke Lavelle, Courage of Care Coalition

Lieselotte Viaene participated in this Deep Dive, together with some twenty people from different academic disciplines and geographic regions to discuss and form a common understanding and community around the importance of relational ontologies to societal transformation.

Agenda Deep Dive 2019

Pictures by Jacques Paysan: Flickr

Bergen Exchanges 2019

19-23 August 2019
Bergen, Norway

Can we develop new ways of thinking about water beyond the modern divides of nature/culture, and reconceptualising human rights? The coordinator of RIVERS Lieselotte Viaene and post doctoral researcher Marta Rica Izquierdo  presented the project during this year Bergen Exchanges on Law and Social Transformation. The main themes for Bergen Exchanges 2019 were Natural Resources, Corruption, Indigenous Rights and Law and Technology.

 To learn more about RIVERS project, you can watch the 20 minute talk of Lieselotte Viaene, RIVERS coordinator, sharing RIVERS research design with an introduction by Rachel Sieder (CIESAS-CMI) and followed by reflections by Marta Rica (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) Angela Ocampo (University of Louvain); and Camila Gianella (CMI) and a Q&A with the distinguished public of Bergen Exchanges 2019   (22 August 2019).

Other events

RIVERS in UN Human Rights Council: Rivers Fieldwork

17-19 September 2019

Lieselotte Viaene, coordinator of RIVERS,  and Paulo Ilich Bacca, post-doctoral researcher in the project participated at the 42 session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. They also attended side events on indigenous justice and human rights, the first year of the transitional justice system in Colombia, and the annual panel discussion on rights of indigenous peoples in Ecuador. Lieselotte and Paulo met with Victoria Tauli-Corpus, member of RIVERS Scientific Advisory Board and current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In this context, Tauli-Corpuz presented her report on issues related to access to justice for indigenous peoples, exploring the contentious relationship between ordinary and indigenous justice systems and analysing the opportunities and challenges of legal pluralism. Subsequently, an interactive dialogue among the Rapporteur, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the UN member states was developed. Read the Report to Human Rights Council, Indigenous Peoples and Justice (2019) here