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Reconciliation in Deeply Divided Societies

Aim and objectives
The overall aim of this project is to determine whether post-conflict reconciliation processes involving national and ethnic minorities and majorities can be formulated into policy making. Why do some post-conflict reconciliation processes work and others do not? A key objective is to identify parameters, variables and characteristics that lead to success or failure in deeply divided societies.

Countries experiencing post-conflict trauma are often driven by outside forces to seek reconciliation through arbitrary restorative or transitional justice policies, or policies that are inappropriate vis-à-vis the intercultural and inter-ethnic nature of the community. Often, such policies are based on assumptions about  closure, harmony and consensus. This may lead to protracted divisions rather than understanding, and can contribute to keeping alive the eternal conflict cycle. Moreover, at the same time as post-conflict multi-ethnic communities experience a need to find shared visions for the future based on interdependence and positive relationships, they are also asked to deal with guilt and forced to cope with socioeconomic and political change of insurmountable proportions. The ‘logic of reconciliation’ in externally imposed policies is therefore not always addressing the pressing needs of post-conflict societies.

While inter-state reconciliation  has been on the European agenda for more than 50 years, intra-state reconciliation is often seen as a national and internal matter. However, in situations where the conflict involved transfer of territory, or settlement through international arbitration, and the subsequent situation saw new national minorities emerging, an intra-state matter is also an inter-state matter. Often a triadic or quadric approach is needed, and policies must take into consideration the multilateral context. This is increasingly becoming recognized by the international community, and organizations like the OSCE have recently begun to address this from the perspective of security.

Through a comparative study, the project will seek to assess the positive and negative impact of existing reconciliation processes in a number of case studies. Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, but also ‘older’ conflicts will be in focus. Following a first selection of case studies, the project will move further in the development of indicators, considered in both qualitative (e.g. a reconciliation barometer) and quantitative (e.g. interethnic marriages) dimensions, to assess the impacts of existing reconciliation processes. Eventual gaps and possible good practices resulting from such research should then be functional in extrapolating useful lessons learned for the design and implementation of coherent reconciliation strategies for deeply divided societies.

Recommendations to policy makers based on identification of reconciliation patterns that have functioned in a positive way for the communities involved.

Activities In 2013
To be determined.


Contact persons
Ugo Caruso

ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State