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An ethic of political reconciliation.

Philpott, Daniel
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Ethics and International Affairs. 23(4):389-407.

In this age of peace building the wide variety of activities undertaken to build stability and justice in and between states in the wake of massive war or other large-scale injustices entails a range of difficult ethical issues. (1) What authority do states or international organizations exercise in rebuilding transitional societies? Is it justifiable to forgo the prosecution of war criminals in order to elicit a peace settlement? Can conditional amnesties be justified? May leaders apologize or forgive on behalf of entire states or nations? On behalf of the dead? Do states owe reparations to representatives of victims of past generations? If so, how are amounts to be determined? Is forgiveness justifiable? Or does it indefensibly sacrifice just punishment?

Which, if any, traditions of ethics propose unified answers to these questions? The dominant ethical framework favored by international organizations and Western governments has been the so-called liberal peace, which prioritizes the building of liberal institutions and the prosecution of war criminals. Another ethical concept that has guided recent global peace-building efforts is reconciliation. Though reconciliation encompasses core commitments of the liberal tradition, such as human rights, it is a far more holistic concept. Its central idea, restoration to a state of right relationship, involves not only a restoration of human rights but also a redress of the wide range of wounds that result from egregious political injustices committed by states and individuals. Such an ethic has been advocated disproportionately but not exclusively by religious activists, though it can also be articulated in secular language (excerpt)


AbstractPost-Conflict ReconciliationRJ in Schools
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