CREDIT: Laurence's travels (CC)

RECONCILIATION: the process of repairing social ties and community trust in the aftermath of violent conflict, or in societies undergoing a transition from totalitarian to democratic governance.

Reconciliation, along with transitional justice, is a key condition for achieving sustainable peace in the aftermath of international or intrastate conflict. Depending on the gravity of the offenses committed and the country's particular situation, reconciliation may mean mere coexistence, an active dialogue between the two sides of a conflict, or the acknowledgement of past abuse and forgiveness. Each reconciliation process is unique and usually involves several of the following components:

· Prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes and other abuses
· Truth-seeking—through special truth commissions such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
· Reparations for victims
· Establishment of memorials
· Dismantling of abusive political structures and institutions, and establishment of democratic ones
· Confidence-building measures such as various cultural and educational initiatives to rebuild trust.



1. In his discussion on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Charles Ingrao states that, "All sides benefit from reconciliation rather than revenge" (see discussion). Ingrao argues that the International Crime Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia fulfilled some aspects of reconciliation in the region. What are the other elements, according to Ingrao, that must be addressed for reconciliation to occur?

2. Truth commissions and trials are among the most used mechanisms of reconciliation in postwar situations. Consider the case of South Africa and discuss the benefits as well as the limits of using truth commissions and trials to bring about postwar reconciliation.

3. Read the report on History and the Politics of Reconciliation. In your opinion, what is the role of historical education in achieving reconciliation and what mechanism (truth commissions, historical commissions, trials, and so forth) is best placed to bring about reconciliation in post-conflict societies?


Selected Carnegie Council Materials

Conference Report: History and the Politics of Reconciliation
Genocide and Aftermath: Rationalizing the Process of Truth and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Special Report: "Reparations for Slavery" Debate
Pablo de Greiff, The Role of Reparations in Transition to Democracy
Juan E. Méndez, "National Reconciliation, Transnational Justice, and the International Criminal Court."
Special Section: Amnesty, Justice and Reconciliation. Ethics and International Affairs. Volume 13 (1999).
Panel: Evaluating Justice and Reconciliation Efforts


Further Reading

Barkan, Elazar. The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices. (New York: Norton, 2000).
Booth, James W. "Memories of Justice," American Political Science Review 95, no. 4 (December 2001): 777-791.
Borneman, John. "Reconciliation after Ethnic Cleansing: Listening, Retribution, Affiliation." Public Culture 14, no. 2 (2002): 281-304.
Brooks, Roy L. ed., When Sorry Isn't Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Rights. (New York: New York University Press, 1999).
Christodoulidis, Emilios A. "Truth and Reconciliation' as Risks." Social and Legal Studies 9, no. 2 (2000): 188-190.
Crocker, David. "Retribution and Reconciliation." Philosophy and Public Policy 20, no.1 (2000): 1-6.
Digeser, Peter. Political Forgiveness. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001).
Hamber, Brandon and Kelly, Gráinne. "A Working Definition of Reconciliation." Democratic Dialogue (September 2004).
Kriesberg, Louis. "Coexistence and the Reconciliation of Communal Conflicts." In The Handbook of Interethnic Coexistence, edited by Eugene Weiner. New York: Abraham Fund, 1998.
Long, William J. and Peter Brecke, War and Reconciliation: Reason and Emotion in Conflict Resolution. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).
McCarthy, Thomas. "Vergangenheitsbewältigung in the USA: On the Politics of Memory of Slavery." Political Theory 30, no. 5 (2002): 623-648.
------ "Coming to Terms with Our Past, Part II: On the Morality and Politics of Reparations for Slavery." Political Theory 32, no. 6 (2004): 750-772.
Minnow, Martha. Between Vengeance and Forgiveness. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998).
Muldoon, Paul. "Reconciliation and Political Legitimacy: The Old Australia and the New South Africa", Australian Journal of Politics and History 49, no. 2 (2003), pp. 182-196.
Prager, Carol A.L. and Trudy Govier (eds.), Dilemmas of Reconciliation: Cases and Concepts. (Waterloo, ON.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003).
Schaap, Andrew. "The Time of Reconciliation and the Space of Politics." Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. Working Paper 2003/8.
Soyinka, Wole. The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
Torpey, John. Politics and the Past: On Repairing Historical Injustices. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).