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Memory for change

November 21, 2014

Memory is the remembrance of lived or transmitted experiences. It is socially framed and allows us to understand what categories people, groups and cultures employ to make sense of their lives, their social, cultural and political attachments and their ideals. Memory is thus central to one’s identity. As memory is malleable and reshaped over time, it needs to be placed in the appropriate socio-historical context in order be able to fill the lacunas of official histories. 

Impunity Watch understands memory initiatives to mean any activity that aims to commemorate or enhance understanding of a conflictive past, including – but not limited to – the erection and maintenance of memorials and monuments, the operation of museums and exhibits, traditional ceremonies and rituals, musical and theatrical performances on relevant topics, the running of educational, awareness-raising, dialogue and remembrance programmes, the teaching of history and the gathering and preservation of information….

In the countries where IW has operated, decision-makers have thus far favoured criminal prosecutions and truth commissions over alternative TJ measures. However, most international criminal justice mechanisms do not address the underlying structures and dynamics that perpetuate impunity, which are part of a transformative justice model. To prevent countries from relapsing into violent conflict, the social, economic and political structures underpinning conflict should be addressed. 

If legacies of violence, ongoing impunity for crimes committed and failure to establish the nature and experiences of violence and conflict remain unaddressed, this can be an ongoing source of grievance and fragility. Therefore, local needs and expectations of affected communities should be considered, in order to create conditions for sustainable peace. Research shows that the societal impact of international trials is limited in relation to the needs and interests of victims….

Read the whole discussion paper.


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