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The fifth edition of the annual conference tackling vital issues in South Asia, Difficult Dialogues, will see leading experts, policymakers, politicians, lawyers, judges, academics and personalities gather in Goa from February 14 to 16, 2020, to discuss the State of Law at the International Centre Goa in Dona Paula.

This year, the forum will be held in partnership withthe University of Oxford (UK), the Bar Association of India, Centre for Study of Law and Governance at Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityO.P. Jindal Global UniversityPLAN IndiaPHIA, besides key partners in Goa, the International Centre GoaGoa University and V.M. Salgaocar College of Law.

Renowned speakers have been invited including Additional Solicitor General of India and politician, Dr. Pinky Anand; Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University, Prof. Raj Kumar; Director of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford University, Prof Linda Mulcahy; researcher and human rights activist Vrinda Grover; Retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India and former member of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice Sujata Manohar; Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India working primarily on civil litigation across sectors, Shyam Divan; former Circuit Court Judge and Senior Counsel at Alperin Law, Judge Thomas Mueller (USA); Barrister, Prof. Venkatesh Iyer (Northern Ireland); current governor of Kerala Arif Mohammed Khan; Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at JNU, Ghazala Jamil; and writer, consultant and activist working on gender rights and minority rights, Farah Naqvi.

Over the three days, those in Goa can attend exciting discussions on current topics including Democracy and the Rule of Law; After the Aadhar Judgement: Do People Have the Right to Privacy?; Gender, Legal Profession and the Courts: Is There a Backlash?; Reforms in the Administration of Justice: What Can Help?; Making Environmental Laws Effective: How to Achieve Sustainability?; And Free Speech, Censorship & the Media: Does Law Impede Freedom of Speech?

The Governor of Goa Satya Pal Malik will be inaugurating the event on the evening of 14th February. There will also be a panel focused on Goa and the Law, discussing the uniform civil code’s desirability and viability and the Goa Children’s Act of 2003, which was the first of its kind in the country. Moderated by Principal of V.M. Salgaocar College of Law, Dr MRK Prasad, it will feature four advocate panelists, Cleofato CoutinhoDr Elgar NoronhaEmedio Pinho and Desmond DCostaJustice MS Sonak from Goa will also be speaking on the panel discussing free speech.

Beyond the panel discussions held during the day at the International Centre Goa, there will also be an engaging talk Above the Law on the 15th evening at Vivanta Goa Panaji, where investigative documentarian from Italy, Massimilano Mazzotta, investigative reporter on the ‘fourth mafia’ Maria Luisa Mastrogiovanni and son of the Maltese journalist who leaked the Panama Papers, Paul Caruana Galizia will be speaking. Mazzota’s documentary film on the polluting oil industry, featuring a refinery in southern Sardinia, will also be screened.

To capture the voice of students, the forum also opens up the debate to India’s universities through Daring Debates, an intensive college debate series on questions like whether sustainable development was an unsustainable idea? This year, the winning teams from Delhi, Shillong, Bengaluru, and Dehradun are invited to battle it out at the grand finale in Goa. Aside from the prizes on offer, this will allow the views of our future leaders to be considered by experts and peers – an integral part of the forum’s inclusive dialogue. Workshops educating focus groups on their legal rights will also be held during Difficult Dialogues, including one on child rights by El Shaddai and for at-risk Dalit women from Stree Shakti by the NGO PHIA and Deepa Narayan of V.M. Salgaocar College of Law.

Difficult Dialogues was founded by philanthropist Surina Narula, a veteran NGO founder – responsible, amongst other achievements, for establishing the internationally lauded Consortium for Street Children – with the intent to bring together leaders from across the spectrum of international society to meet and find equitable solutions to South Asia’s most pressing priorities. She says, “My experience working with NGOs spanning 20 years has given me a deep understanding of the pressing need to work on policy change. ‘Difficult Dialogues’ is an endeavor to provide a common platform to bridge this gap between policymakers and civil society involved with implementation. Unless the last mile implementers are included in the conversation, policies will only reflect what mega rich businesses want and democracy will be diluted. This year the task is to explore the State of the Law in the country as the judiciary and the legal framework is an important part of a diverse nation like India for providing justice, equality and prosperity to all its citizens.”

Anyone with an interest in leading thinker’s insights into the legal debates will find the upcoming Difficult Dialogues forum from February 14-16 to be a stimulating festival of ideas that truly has the power to change the future direction of Indian society. For further information on the Difficult Dialogues Forum series, and to register, one can visit Further, actionable white papers will be created after the conference and published later, for the benefit of all.