Dealing with the Past - Exchange and Reflect

Neither Justice nor Transition: The Growing Plight of Victims in Transitional Justice

04. Jan. 2021
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Dr Terry Savage

Transitional justice aims at providing mechanisms to deal with past atrocities and pave the way for building a society based on peace and justice. Reflecting insights from victimology, Dr Terry Savage however believes that transitional justice measures often miss the needs of victims and fail to provide justice for them. But how should transitional justice processes be dealt with in order to be truly victim-oriented?

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The future of the field

08. Dec. 2020
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Louis Bickford

How should transitional justice and related fields move into the future? Drawing on interviews, in the final blog post of this series Louis Bickford suggests seven ways in which the vast field could and should adapt itself to the current global context.

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Racial justice, historical legacies, and truth commissions

25. Nov. 2020
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Louis Bickford

This blog series examined the field of transitional justice through a critical lens, having asked, for example, how transitional justice might be relevant for the ongoing racial justice movements in the world. Interviewees agreed that the field has a lot to offer at this historical moment of transformation, but that the field also needs some healthy self-reflection.

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VivaVoz – Voices from varied communities on dealing with the past in Colombia

17. Nov. 2020
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Louis Bickford

The VivaVoz programme will be a confluence of hundreds of voices from six communities in Colombia. The representatives, young community leaders with experience in remembrance and communication initiatives, share anecdotes, reflections and ideas from their regions that can contribute to ending and not repeating the armed conflict.

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There is no blueprint. Local knowledge and international expertise at odds

04. Nov. 2020
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Louis Bickford

Vasuki Nesiah, Professor of Human Rights and International Law at New York University, deals with the tensions that transitional justice is facing between local knowledge and international expertise and speaks of the power of being 'international' in the practice of transitional justice.

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About this Blog

We collect and collate practical insights, experiences and approaches relating to the challenges of implementing dealing with the past processes in the world as well as in Germany itself, thereby promoting truly universal learning.


Transitional Justice is a professionalised and internationally accepted policy field. But do its implicit and explicit foundations still hold good? Which of its underlying assumptions, patterns of thinking or practices should be critically reviewed?

Dealing with the past is often subject to passionate political struggles - on the national, as well as on the international level. They can lead to rather supportive or suppressive, truly effective or ineffective frameworks, institutionalised by state-policies and laws. However, below the surface, political struggles are about the access to scare resources, institutions or, more generally, the distribution of power. What political initiatives exist that try to foster inclusive and coherent processes of dealing with the past? Why do they exist and what is their room for manoeuvre?


a. Peacebuilding requires the integration of conflicting narratives. To that end, these narratives must be transformed/made “fit for peace”. How can this be achieved?
b. How can diverse perspectives be made visible in social discourse – or in a museum? What is the connecting element in this diversity? How can relativism and arbitrariness be excluded?

Transitional Justice is value-oriented and aims to help build sustainably peaceful and just societies. What do we know about its real impacts?

Transitional Justice sees itself as genuinely preventive. What can be done to strengthen its prevention capacities?

a. Gender in practice is primarily associated with the integration of women and their perspectives in processes and institutions. Which challenges need to be resolved through practical action?
b. Which other topics that can be addressed through TJ measures lend themselves to consideration through a gender lens?

Exposure to trauma and bereavement is common in conflict-affected regions. It affects indivduals and whole societies. Enjoying peace after the crisis is often impossible. How helpful is trauma resolution to the prevention of future conflicts? Who does trauma therapy address? Are there best-practice examples in post-crisis countries?

 a. Which opportunities are opened up by the digitalisation of memory? What can be done to minimise risks and avert hazards?
b. How can knowledge and narratives about the past reach the general public?

Those born afterwards bear no direct responsibility. They may choose to ignore history or identify with perpetrators or victims. What can be done to awaken young people’s interest in history and motivate them to engage in building peaceful relations between communities?

Please feel free to suggest a new discussion topic in your blog post, such as issues relating to experience with Transformative Justice, reparation programmes, dealing with perpetrators and much more.

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