Source: (2011) E. International Relations. 26 December 2011.

...[R]econciliation has become a familiar feature of the peace-building landscape, and has been widely adopted as a means of healing the wounds of war and past injustices. National reconciliation initiatives (NRIs) are initiated by governments and generally take place throughout a subject country. A form of NRI that has gained currency is the truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). TRCs are usually state-created ventures that can embrace local healing methods while attempting to bring about reconciliation and mutual understanding. These public forums attempt to rectify harm that has occurred during prolonged conflict or through systematic policies. TRCs have five main characteristics: they investigate abuse, they focus on the past, they have an official mandate, they are temporary, and they are frequently created during a period of political transition. Although they can be used as an alternative to justice in the traditional sense, they often integrate aspects of community justice through an understanding of where responsibility for offenses lie, and frequently include reparation programs for victims. Although it is not always possible to bring perpetrators and victims together, reconciliation initiatives often do when possible, therefore employing some aspects of restorative justice. Reconciliation is centered on the community coming together in dialogue to discuss and overcome violent conflict. It has been suggested that ultimately, reconciliation after prolonged violence can only be realized when retributive justice and restorative justice are blended to create a unique transformational process. The first TRCs occurred in Latin America in the 1980s, including in Argentina, which implemented a National Commission to investigate and understand the mass disappearance of people at the hands of government. The first exercises in truth and reconciliation have largely been criticized as lacking transitional thrust, since repressive governments remained in power. Likewise, early TRCs, including Argentina and Chile, provided reparations to victims in the form of pensions, scholarships, and free social services, which was seen as a way to buy victim support in the wake of general amnesty for military personnel mainly responsible for violence. TRCs have become increasingly prominent as a peacebuilding tool in countries facing intrastate conflicts, particularly since the highly publicized exercise carried out by South Africa almost two decades ago, which was at the time considered to be the most ambitious effort in truth and reconciliation. (excerpt)


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