Recasting an agenda for peace

The International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrated its ten-year anniversary last summer. During its first decade of life, both the shadow and the actuality of international justice in the form of investigation, trial, and judgment have become a central feature of many conflicts, ongoing and concluded. Nearly a decade before the ICC opened its doors, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission attracted enormous global attention, and the moral sanction against racial violence at its core resonated across the globe. And yet, the concept of reconciliation that defined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has not occupied the same coveted (if also contested) international space that international justice—through trials—does today. If anything, advocates of justice and trials have subsumed reconciliation and truth seeking into a package of justice that has trials at its core. In his new book,Just and Unjust Peace, Daniel Philpott forces us to rethink this ordering. Political reconciliation is at the center of Philpott’s conception of justice. The ethic of reconciliation is, in Philpott’s words, “a concept of justice that aims to restore victims, perpetrators, citizens, and the governments of states that have been involved in political injustices to a condition of right relationship within a political order or between political orders—a condition characterized by human rights, democracy, the rule of law, respect for international law; by widespread recognition of the legitimacy of these values; and by the virtues that accompany these values.” The six practices that Philpott identifies as core to reconciliation (building socially just institutions, acknowledgments, reparations, punishment, apology, and forgiveness) encompass much that is central to liberal peacebuilding, including trials, but together these present a far more ambitious standard for just peacebuilding. These practices aim to restore relationships, a task that Philpott identifies as fundamental to securing a peaceful future.

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