Back to RJ Archive

‘Sorry for the Genocide’: How Public Apologies Can Help Promote National Reconciliation

Andrieu, Kora
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Millennium – Journal of International Studies. 38(1):

The aim of this article is to defend the politics of official apologies as part of a liberal conception of state and society. To acknowledge this is to defend a subjective conception of state legitimacy, not solely based on its objective efficiency but also on the meaning that citizens give to it and their belief in its legitimacy. I will argue that official apologies for past wrongs can be an essential component of this belief, and help building or rebuilding civic trust in the aftermath of mass atrocity. The acknowledgment of a wrongdoing, the acceptance of one’s responsibility, and the expression of sorrow and regret for it can therefore appear as a reliable way to promote national reconciliation. I will show that in order to understand how pure words can provoke such an important shift, we need to `unfold’ the meaning of an apology and to review our conception of reconciliation itself. Only if we consider reconciliation as the achievement of trust can apologies become part of the reconstruction process of post-conflict societies. I will draw upon a Habermassian conception of discursive solidarity to show that, rightly understood and formulated, apologies, as a form of dialogue, could become an essential norm-affirming and community-binding measure in the aftermath of mass atrocities, one compatible with a liberal project of transitional justice. (author’s abstract)


AbstractPost-Conflict ReconciliationPrisonsRJ and the WorkplaceRJ in SchoolsRJ TheoryStatutes and LegislationTeachers and Students
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now