Social Sciences

Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Post-Conflict Societies

Demands for recognition of “historical wrongs” and the redress of grievances have abounded in the post-World War II era, especially in countries emerging from authoritarian rule and conflicts that escalated to mass atrocity—genocide, ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and other crimes against humanity. But how, and when do post-conflict states address past human rights abuses? What roles do practices of forgiveness and healing play in reconciling political and social relationships? And, how do international development agencies and other interveners help domestic actors resolve the complex tensions between truth, justice and reconciliation? 

Over the past few decades, transitional justice has emerged as an interdisciplinary field of research and practice that aims to promote peace, democracy and reconciliation with the hope that these conditions best help prevent systemic violation of human rights. 

Take part in this new and distinctive approach to justice that is both backward and forwarding looking – aiming not only to provide a measure of dignity to victims but also to prevent similar victimhood in the future. Learn from Duke University scholars of international human rights law and experts on peace and conflict resolution.

Examine recent attempts to establish just outcomes in post-conflict settings as societies emerge from periods of violence and repression. Explore case studies of genocide, crimes against humanity, mass atrocities, and other human rights violations in Germany, Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and the United States that highlight the social, political, economic, legal and international dynamics of justice and as well as confounding factors such as ethnicity, race, gender, religion, class, territory and natural resources.

Debate how to adequately deal with the past in newly democratizing countries by exploring the uses and disadvantages of “remembering” and “forgetting” violations of human rights. Synthesize and apply what you learn during a final Model United Nations conference where you demonstrate knowledge of the critical roles played by domestic institutions, mixed institutions, and international initiatives as you advocate a specific path forward for a state witnessing problems of transitional justice.

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