What is Conflict Justice?
Conflict justice is the attempt to vindicate the rights of victims of conflict in a way that responds to their most immediate demands and supports the prospects of short term and medium term peace.
It encourages those engaged in mediation to focus on tangible rights-based benefits as an integral part of settlements.
It is premised on the belief that establishing a positive experience of rights and demonstrating that rights make a difference in real ways will encourage those tempted to resort to conflict to instead continue to invest in peace.
We know that many conflicts relapse and we know that even those that do not often deliver only a “negative peace”. Processes and settlements that focus on and secure rights based benefits can help re-establish the social pathways for existence based on respect and dignity for all around shared citizenship.
In the 1990s the idea of reconciliation was very popular but for various reasons it has slipped off the agenda. There are some understandable reasons for this. It is sometimes seen as a term that puts the burden on victims to forgive or to forget. It is also suggested that it is little more than a euphemism for impunity. Others indicate the confusions around whether reconciliation is a goal or a process; whether it ignores real and even necessary differences in society. There is a need for much work to be done to recover an ethical and actionable notion of reconciliation, but we believe that it will be impossible for societies to recover from war without an effort from all sides to establish a common basis of respect and dignity. We believe that efforts to humanize those deemed to be “other” and to eradicate the narratives and practices of division and hatred are essential to establish a positive peace.
What do we do?
The work of CJR complements the programmes of EIP in countries where it is already operational supporting mediation processes.
In Syria we are working on a project called Empowering Refugee Voices. It focuses on both refugees and IDPs. It starts from the premise that any lasting solution to a post war Syria needs to address the fact that over half of the country are IDPs or refugees. The safe and dignified return of as many as possible of those who wish to return will be crucial for the viability and security of Syria and the region. This means that refugees and IDPs have to be organized to understand the conditions in Syria, to protect their rights to housing land and property and to ensure that changes to their housing and land are not allowed to go unchallenged by those engaged on the ground or in supporting reconstruction efforts in the future.
In Iraq we are exploring work that connects three apparently disparate strands. With over two million people still not returned home in and around Mosul there are live housing land and property issues, but in a different context from Syria requiring a different solution. There are compensation processes linked to local and traditional justice. There are also advanced efforts to hold massive numbers to account for ISIS complicity or membership that are not without significant challenges. These processes can be connected in a way that rationalizes efforts to focus on rights based benefits for the victims of conflict.
We are also developing projects in Afghanistan and Yemen about which more information will be forthcoming in the 2018.
To complement our practical and substantive work we will also carry out a significant research project over the next 30 months. The project will investigate how reconciliation has figured in mediated ends to conflict. Looking at eight case studies we will examine the degree to which the idea was present in the minds of parties, what it was taken to mean and the role it played; what steps if any were included in the settlement to advance the cause of reconciliation as it was understood, and what impact those processes had. We see this study as a first but important step in advancing practical approaches to reconciliation in mediation processes.