Dealing with the Past - Exchange and Reflect

“The past is much more elaborate than peace agreements“. Reflecting on transitional justice in Liberia

07. Oct. 2020
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Louis Bickford

Aaron Weah, a transitional justice researcher based at University of Ulster, reflects on the transitional justice experience in Liberia and globally. He criticizes the process in Liberia mainly for the failure to address historical inequalities.

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Help instigate processes, be a catalyst, not promise the sky. A plea for realistic expectations

30. Sep. 2020
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Louis Bickford

Pablo de Greiff, human rights scholar and activist, was the first UN Special Rapporteur on Transitional Justice. In the context of the racial justice campaigns that are currently taking place in the USA, he believes that the time has come for transitional justice to provide recognition in a way that people are clearly calling for.

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Change of minds, change of behaviour. A view on transitional justice in former Yugoslavia

23. Sep. 2020
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Louis Bickford

Anita Mitic, who was born as Yugoslavia broke out in civil war, describes in an interview what can be learned from former Yugoslavia in terms of transitional justice. What the transitional justice processes would have shown is the necessity to address behavioral norms and the powerful role of political elites.

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Looking beyond legalism. The urgent need for people-centered justice processes in Cambodia

16. Sep. 2020
Louis Bickford

Emma Leslie, Executive Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Cambodia, reflects in an interview on transitional justice processes in Cambodia. Instead of legalistic processes, she urges for people-centered approaches grounded in the Cambodian culture and system.

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What future for transitional justice? Radical critical reflections on the field

09. Sep. 2020
Louis Bickford

This blog series examines the field of transitional justice through a critical lens, asking challenging questions and exploring ways in which it might be relevant, or not, in our current global context. Through a small number of carefully-selected interviews, the series intends to provoke debate within the field and help lead to innovation and adaptation.

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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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