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The Needle and the Haystack – Positioning Transitional Justice Interventions with Broader Ecologies of Transformative Justice

Conflict
Conflict Resolution
Transitional States
Padraig McAuliffe
University of Liverpool
Padraig McAuliffe
University of Liverpool

Abstract

A scholarly consensus has generally emerged that a Lederachian view of transformative justice could be the solution to address injustices that flow from war and to shepherd post-conflict societies towards stability and development. This is the case because (a) transformative justice is concerned with root causes and comprehensive outcomes, and (b) its preference for elicitive conflict resolution that builds models from cultural resources and local knowledge over prescriptive forms that transfer Western methods to non-Western conflict ecologies bears obvious affinities with much of the transitional justice literature. It seems clear that macro-level interventions like trials and truth commissions could complement middle-range and grassroots problem-solving workshops, local peace commissions, prejudice-reduction projects and psycho-social work in post-conflict trauma as part of holistic transitional justice responses. However, a key impediment to this Panel’s stated aspirations to (i) switch to transformative justice from existing transitional justice process and (ii) implement transformative justice successfully thereafter is the tendency to grant lip-service to need for holism while advocating for the particular virtues of one approach (truth, reparations, indigenous justice, psychosocial healing etc) at the expense of others or foregrounding one site of intervention (the national, the meso-local or the micro-local) over another. Most scholars and practitioners of peacebuilding and conflict resolution are agreed that local or state-level approaches alone cannot succeed without the other. Transformative justice must exist in nested paradigms where local problems are enclosed within those of larger geographical subsystems, and national level approaches depend on bottom-up critical yeast’ in which interactions amongst a small group of individuals sustains macro-level endeavours. This paper therefore examines how the impact of often very partisan battles over the field’s process of self-definition and reflexive suspicion of liberal intervention have served to preclude the type of fine-grained, realist political economy analysis that can meaningfully place forms of transitional justice within the broader conflict transformation ecology.