Interministerial Strategy to Support “Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation (Transitional Justice)”

in the Context of Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts and Building Peace

The Federal Government
| 2019

When violent conflicts end or systems of injustice are replaced by legitimate governments, societies reorganise the way their people coexist. The acts of violence and human rights abuses that many people suffered are present in this transition. Victims demand justice. As a first step, trust in the state, its legitimacy and its protective function must be (re-)established. In this type of situation, targeted efforts to come to terms with the past can have a stabilising effect in the short term, and can thereby help in the medium and long term to secure peace, build democratic and rule-of-law institutions and facilitate reconciliation at various levels.

In its Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace (2017), the Federal Government pledged to create an interministerial strategy for dealing with the past and reconciliation (transitional justice). This strategy should strengthen Germany’s engagement in transitional justice and position it on a clearer conceptual foundation. In particular, the aim is to help ministries act more coherently and in a more coordinated manner, to use synergies between different policy areas and to create closer links between relevant stakeholders. Action in the field of transitional justice also always includes the equally important field of reconciliation.

In recent years, as part of their peace and human rights policies, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and bilateral donors have adopted concepts and strategy papers on transitional justice or – as it is also known in international circles – dealing with the past.

There is a growing awareness that processes of transitional justice must also consider refugees and internally displaced persons. Their needs and experiences – not only as victims of violence, but in particular as refugees and displaced persons – must be taken into account with regard to their return, their reintegration and the reconstruction of society.

In terms of its foreign, security and development policy, Germany can now look back on two decades of state and civil-society approaches in the field of transitional justice and reconciliation in numerous countries. Germany itself has many and varied experiences of processes for confronting and dealing with the past; of particular note are its efforts to deal with the National Socialist dictatorship and the rupture in civilisation that was the Shoah on the one hand, and the SED regime in East Germany on the other. These experiences, which involved controversies, weaknesses, fractures, contradictions and individual compromises, are key points of reference for the Federal Government’s international engagement.

In preparing this strategy, important suggestions and ideas were incorporated from the Federal Government’s PeaceLab blog on transitional justice and reconciliation. The blog, moderated by FriEnt, brings together over 30 articles written by civil-society authors, academics, and practitioners from Germany and abroad.

In 2025, the Federal Government will review this strategy for transitional justice and reconciliation, and adjust it as necessary.

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