ECMI participated in the Conference: Human rights abuses – Coming to terms with the past, transitional justice and democratization, RWTH Aachen, 26-27 November 2010

The event was jointly organized by the working groups on human rights and democracy/democratization of the German Political Science Association (DVPW).
Papers presented at the conference dealt with country cases as well as with the systematic, theoretical and empirical approach to study transitional justice and reconciliation processes. A special focus was given to the processes of coming to terms with the past, transitional justice and reconciliation and their impact the functioning of democratic institutions, the quality of democracy and democratization in societies in transition.
ECMI was represented by Senior Research Associate PD Dr. Jan Asmussen, who talked about ‘Justice or/and Reconciliation – strengthening traditional institutions in state-building’. Dr. Asmussen argued that the concept of state-building has been seriously challenged by the realities of international policymaking in cases like Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. More recently, American state-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been proven faulty. The main rationale for state-building in those cases was the assumption that failed states can’t be renovated but need to be fundamentally reconstructed from scratch. Accordingly the international community tried to apply a number of tools and methods that had not been tested in previous cases. Moreover, this was done without sufficient analysis of the long term impact state-building measures had or will have in terms of sustainability. There can be no doubt that the concept of state-building, as practised so far, has failed to produce the desired results. One of the reasons might well be that too little responsibility has been put on the shoulders of local politicians and too much was carried on those of the international community. Another reason, not thoroughly thought over yet, is the fact that the international community did away with traditional institutions and instruments that were in place in those failed states and that might have had a potential not only to sustain a reformed state, but that could sustain reforms better.
Assessing the successful balance between traditional justice and sustainable democratic development and societal reconciliation is vital for successful state-building. Dr. Asmussen, in his presentation, evaluated different approaches to transitional justice and state-building in cases as diverse as Germany, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. He explored if and how the international community might find ways and means to restructure state-building tools and measures by strengthening traditional institutions rather than creating new ones. Dr. Asmussen is heading ECMI’s research cluster on Conflict and Security. The cluster aims to enhance European security by means of sustainable trust and reconciliation. The cluster has a particular focus on research and revision of reconciliation policies in Europe.

Place and date: Aachen, 26-27 November 2010

For further information, please contact:
Jan Asmussen, asmussen@ecmi.de

ECMI founders:

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