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Transformation – Overcoming the Limits of Liberal Peace and Transitional Justice in Deeply Divided Societies: Reconciliation in Liberal Peace Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2021

Or Avi-Guy*
The Minerva Center for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.
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This article explores the tension between the theoretical conceptualisations of liberal peace, transitional justice and reconciliation by focusing on power sharing as a liberal peace institution-building mechanism. Power sharing is based on the premise that identities in conflict in deeply divided societies are difficult, if not impossible, to change. The article outlines the limitations of liberal peace by demonstrating how the implementation of power-sharing arrangements creates a political reality in which conflict patterns are further entrenched, thus hindering the prospects of conflict transformation. In order to address the limitations of liberal peace, the article draws on models of transformative justice to highlight the growing need for a new conceptualisation of reconciliation as a political and transformative concept, in which both justice and reconciliation are recognised as intrinsic goals for post-conflict societies. Thus, the re-establishment of political structures and institutional reforms is envisaged not only as a tool to promote political stability, but as a means of facilitating transformation in conflict patterns in the political and social spheres.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press in association with the Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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1 Johan Galtung, ‘Three Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding’ in Johan Galtung (ed), Peace, War and Defence: Essays in Peace Research (Ejlers 1976) 282.

2 Madhav Joshi, Sung Yong Lee and Roger Mac Ginty, ‘Just How Liberal Is the Liberal Peace?’ (2014) 21 International Peacekeeping 364.

3 Boutros Boutros-Ghali, ‘An Agenda for Peace’ (31 January 1995), UN Doc [ST/]DPI/1247; Humphrey, Michael, ‘Reconciliation and the Therapeutic State’ (2005) 26 Journal of Intercultural Studies 202CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Boutros-Ghali (n 3) art 59.

5 Wendy Lambourne, ‘Transformative Justice, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding’ in Susanne Buckley-Zistel and others (eds), Transitional Justice Theories (Routledge 2014) 19.

6 Mark R Amstutz, The Healing of Nations: The Promise and Limits of Political Forgiveness (Rowman & Littlefield 2005) 101;  Mark R Amstutz, International Ethics: Concepts, Theories and Cases in Global Politics (3rd edn, Rowman & Littlefield 2008) 68.

7 Jennifer Balint, Genocide, State Crime and the Law (Routledge 2012) 14–16; Fletcher, Laurel E and Weinstein, Harvey M, ‘Violence and Social Repair: Rethinking the Contribution of Justice to Reconciliation’ (2002) 24 Human Rights Quarterly 573CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Joshi, Lee and Mac Ginty (n 2).

8 Bruno Charbonneau and Geneviève Parent, ‘Introduction: Peacebuilding, Healing, Reconciliation’ in Bruno Charbonneau and Geneviève Parent (eds), Peacebuilding, Memory and Reconciliation: Bridging Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches (Routledge 2012); Barry Hart (ed), Peacebuilding in Traumatized Societies (University Press of America 2008); Geneviève Parent, ‘Peacebuilding, Healing, Reconciliation: An Analysis of Unseen Connections for Peace’ (2014) 18 International Peacekeeping 379.

9 Nicos Trimikliniotis, ‘Sociology of Reconciliation: Learning from Comparing Violent Conflicts and Reconciliation Processes (2013) 61(2) Current Sociology 244.

10 Oliver P Richmond, Peace in International Relations (Routledge 2008).

11 Andrew Schaap, Political Reconciliation (Routledge 2005) 17.

12 Daniel Philpott, ‘Introduction: Searching for Strategy in an Age of Peacebuilding’ in Daniel Philpott and Gerard F Powers (eds), Strategies of Peace: Transforming Conflict in a Violent World (Oxford University Press 2010) 3.

13 Ruti G Teitel, Transitional Justice (Oxford University Press 2000); Teitel, Ruti G, ‘Transitional Justice Genealogy’ (2003) 16 Harvard Human Rights Journal 69Google Scholar.

14 Daniel Philpott, ‘An Ethic of Political Reconciliation’ (2009) 23 Ethics and International Affairs 389, 393; see also Paige, Arthur, ‘How “Transitions” Reshaped Human Rights: A Conceptual History of Transitional Justice’ (2009) 31 Human Rights Quarterly 321Google Scholar; Schaap (n 11); Richard A Wilson, The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa (Cambridge University Press 2001).

15 David Bloomfield, On Good Terms: Clarifying Reconciliation (Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management 2006) 9.

16 Schaap (n 11) 8.

17 Anna K Jarstad, ‘Introduction’ in Anna K Jarstad and Timothy D Sisk (eds), From War to Democracy: Dilemmas of Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press 2008) 1, 3; Edward Newman, Roland Paris and Oliver P Richmond, ‘Introduction’ in Edward Newman, Roland Paris and Oliver P Richmond (eds), New Perspectives on Liberal Peacebuilding (United Nations University Press 2009) 3, 11.

18 Jarstad, ibid.

19 Roland Paris, At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict (Cambridge University Press 2004) 45; Benjamin Reilly, ‘Post-War Elections: Uncertain Turning Points of Transition’ in Jarstad and Sisk (n 17) 157, 157–59.

20 Anna K Jarstad, ‘Dilemmas of War-to-Democracy Transitions: Theories and Concepts’ in Jarstad and Sisk (n 17) 17.

21 Hugh Miall, ‘Conflict Transformation: A Multi-Dimensional Task’ in Alex Austin, Martina Fischer and Norbert Ropers (eds), Transforming Ethnopolitical Conflict (Springer 2004) 70.

22 Oliver P Richmond, Liberal Peace Transitions: Between State Building and Peacebuilding (Edinburgh University Press 2009) 4.

23 Richmond, Oliver P, ‘The Problem of Peace: Understanding the “Liberal Peace”’ (2006) 6 Conflict, Security & Development 291CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 292.

24 Erin Daly and Jeremy Sarkin, Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground (University of Pennsylvania Press 2007) 21–22; Donais, Timothy and Knorr, Amy C, ‘Peacebuilding from Below vs. the Liberal Peace: The Case of Haiti’ (2013) 34 Canadian Journal of Development Studies 54CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 55; Philpott (n 14) 389.

25 Sharp, Dustin N, ‘Positive Peace, Paradox, and Contested Liberalisms’ (2020) 22 International Studies Review 122Google Scholar, 131.

26 Lambourne (n 5) 34.

27 Gready, Paul and Robins, Simon, ‘From Transitional to Transformative Justice: A New Agenda for Practice’ (2014) 8 The International Journal of Transitional Justice 339CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 Amstutz (2005) (n 6); Amstutz (2008) (n 6); Paige (n 14) 331–32; Skaar, Elin, ‘Reconciliation in a Transitional Justice Perspective’ (2012) 1 Transitional Justice Review 54Google Scholar.

29 Gready and Robins (n 27) 341.

30 ibid.

31 ibid.

32 Wendy Lambourne, ‘Transitional Justice and Peacebuilding after Mass Violence’ (2009) 3 The International Journal of Transitional Justice 28, 29.

33 John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (United States Institute of Peace Studies 1997) 24–28.

34 Donais and Knorr (n 24) 54; Oliver P Richmond, ‘Introduction – Towards a Post-Liberal Peace: Exploring Hybridity via Everyday Forms of Resistance, Agency and Autonomy’ in Oliver P Richmond and Audra Mitchell (eds), Hybrid Forms of Peace: From Everyday Agency to Post-Liberalism (Palgrave MacMillan 2012) 1, 5–12.

35 Stefanie Kappler, ‘Liberal Peacebuilding's Presentation of “the Local”: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina’ in Richmond and Mitchell, ibid 260; Adrian Little, Democracy and Northern Ireland: Beyond the Liberal Paradigm? (Palgrave MacMillan 2004); Chandra Lekha Sriram, ‘Post-Conflict Justice and Hybridity in Peacebuilding: Resistance or Cooptation?’ in Richmond and Mitchell, ibid 58.

36 Lambourne (n 5).

37 Richmond, Oliver P, ‘Becoming Liberal, Unbecoming Liberalism: Liberal-Local Hybridity via the Everyday as a Response to the Paradoxes of Liberal Peacebuilding’ (2009) 3 Journal of Intervention and State Building 324Google Scholar, 325.

38 ibid 326.

39 David Roberts, ‘Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, Liberal Irrelevance and the Locus of Legitimacy’ (2011) 18 International Peacekeeping 410, 410–11.

40 Philpott (n 14) 391–92.

41 Joshi, Lee and Mac Ginty (n 2).

42 eg, Adrian Guelke (ed), Democracy and Ethnic Conflict: Advancing Peace in Deeply Divided Societies (Palgrave MacMillan 2004) 2.

43 Joanne McEvoy and Brendan O'Leary (eds), Power Sharing in Deeply Divided Places (University of Pennsylvania Press 2013).

44 Arend Lijphart, ‘Constitutional Design for Divided Societies’ (2004) 15(2) Journal of Democracy 96, 96–97.

45 MCP Van Schendelen, ‘Critical Comments of Lijphart's Theory of Consociational Democracy’ (1983) 10 Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 6, 6.

46 Sharp (n 25).

47 Timothy Sisk, Statebuilding: Consolidating Peace after Civil War (Polity Press 2013) 130.

48 Chandra Lekha Sriram, Peace as Governance: Power-Sharing, Armed Groups and Contemporary Peace Negotiations (Palgrave MacMillan 2008) 18–19.

49 Lijphart (n 44) 97.

50 Barry, Brian, ‘Political Accommodation and Consociational Democracy’ (1975) 5 British Journal of Political Science 477CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 480; Arend Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies (Yale University Press 1977) 25–44; Arend Lijphart, ‘Steps in My Research and Thinking about Power Sharing and Democratic Institutions’ (2013) (Special Issue) Taiwan Journal of Democracy 1, 3.

51 Lustick, Ian S, ‘Lijphart, Lakatos, and Consociationalism’ (1997) 50 World Politics 88CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 94.

52 Lijphart, Arend, ‘Consociational Democracy’ (1969) 21 World Politics 207CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 213–15, 222.

53 Lustick (n 51) 94.

54 Lustick, Ian, ‘Stability in Deeply Divided Societies’ (1979) 31(3) World Politics 325CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 328, 334; Lustick (n 51) 95.

55 Sriram (n 48) 19.

56 Lijphart (1977) (n 50) 25, 38.

57 Sriram (n 48) 18.

58 Barry (n 50) 480.

59 McGarry, John and O'Leary, Brendan, ‘The Political Regulation of National and Ethnic Conflict’ (1994) 47 Parliamentary Affairs 95Google Scholar, 112–13.

60 ibid.

61 ibid 113–14.

62 Lijphart (n 44) 96; Lijphart (2013) (n 50) 3.

63 Lambourne (n 32).

64 Lederach (n 33); John Paul Lederach, ‘Journey from Resolution to Transformative Peacebuilding’ in Cynthia Sampson and John Paul Lederach (eds), From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding (Oxford University Press 2000) 45.

65 Rama Mani, Beyond Retribution: Seeking Justice in the Shadows of War (Polity Press 2002); Rama Mani, ‘Rebuilding an Inclusive Political Community after War’ (2005) 36 Security Dialogue 511.

66 Luc Reychler, ‘Challenges of Peace Research’ (2006) 11 International Journal of Peace Studies 1.

67 Lambourne (n 32) 35, 37–45; Lambourne (n 5).

68 Lambourne (n 32) 45; Lambourne (n 5).

69 Gready and Robins (n 27) 351–52.

70 ibid 340.

71 Sharp (n 25).

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