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Panel: Beyond Consultation: Towards more Meaningful Participation in Transitional Justice

Measuring Up: A Dialogical Model for Assuring a Reparative Process

Dr. Lisa Laplante, Professor of Law, New England Law | Boston

International law obliges governments to assure adequate and effective reparations for human rights violations. To date, most evaluations of such programs focus on outcomes while overlooking the process of how the state engaged victims, or not, in the determination of what they needed to feel repaired. A consensus now points toward the need to better involve beneficiaries in reparations programs in the process of determining these outcomes, yet there remains a need to better understand how to assure meaningful and effective participation. In response, the authors present an expansive view of the right to participation that would oblige governments to assure the quality of this participation in all stages of reparation programming, including design, implementation, and evaluation. They argue that reparative processes are, in themselves, forms of reparation, which go toward citizen restitution. They offer preliminary guidelines on how to assure reparative processes, as well as their evaluation, through a dialogical model that helps reorient the view of “victims” to being active agents in determining not only appropriate reparations but also larger transformations. Reparative processes shift the focus of evaluation to look beyond outcomes and toward the quality of the design and implementation processes, which, if flawed, may ultimately undermine the overall impact of any reparation program.

Paradox of Justice: From Transitional to Everyday Justice

Dr. Pamina Firchow, Associate Professor, Heller School for Social Policy, Brandeis University

Transitional justice lacks a coherent framework for articulating the relationship between distributive and corrective justice. Academic debates remain largely normative, focused on whether and how transitional justice should distinguish itself from the realm of the social, economic, and cultural. Where there is a bridge between legal logics and lived realities, it generally happens through victims’ consultation, but these are often thinly designed processes, revolving around questions like “what do victims want” or failing to turn expectations into action. Taking inspiration from Sally Engle Merry’s “paradox of measurement,” in which measurements produce the realities they assess, we pose a “paradox of justice” in which victims’ lived experiences are filtered and reproduced through the technology of consultation. While important, the question of “what do victims want” ultimately oversimplifies the complexities of how injustice is experienced. Drawing on a unique dataset of everyday indicators of justice from Colombia, this article establishes a framework for articulating the experiential dimensions of post-conflict justice. Ultimately, this framework highlights that justice is a process—whether in the courtroom or in a village reckoning with a massacre—and that the kinds of relationships that justice institutions build with victims are of equal relevance to what these institutions ultimately deliver.

Meaningful Engagement from the Bottom-Up? Taking Stock of Participation in Transitional Justice Processes

Dr. Yvette Selim, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Public Policy and Governance, UTS

This paper surveys the literature on participation in transitional justice (TJ) focusing primarily on victims and bottom-up actors. We argue that often the preoccupation in TJ has been with greater rather than more meaningful participation, and that there needs to be a concerted effort to focus on everyday actors, including their voices, needs and priorities. Consideration also needs to be given as to whether meaningful participation can occur without genuine obligation and commitment to heeding participants’ input, and greater consideration is required to measure and build an evidence-base regarding participatory TJ efforts and their outcomes. We explore creative and non-traditional participatory activities in transitional justice processes, particularly those undertaken by victim-survivors and victims’ groups. We advocate for further discussion in theory and in practice about how participation in TJ can be reimagined toward actor oriented, bottom-up led processes that lead to meaningful outcomes. We suggest that TJ specific participation considerations are required and refer to existing theoretical considerations and models from other disciplines and sectors as helpful departure points.