RECONCILIATION, PEACE AND JUSTICE


If ending a conflict means offering aggressors positions in the resulting political settlement and impunity for their crimes, is the compromise acceptable? Or should full accountability and criminal procedures for aggressors be non-negotiable – even if it means that the violence and killing are prolonged? Such questions have served to create tension between peacemakers and justice practitioners . Separating peacebuilding from the promotion of justice undermines both. Peace and justice are interdependent. The real challenge is how to reconcile the inevitable tensions between them. 
The 16th sustainable development goal refers  to “peaceful and inclusive societies”, “access to justice for all” and “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”. This is welcome, but innovation will be needed to advance peace and justice in Africa 
The scale and complexity of the challenges facing societies affected by conflict means narrow approaches that prioritise one over the other. We need to find creative ways of integrating efforts to prevent conflict with the promotion of human rights, justice and the rule of law.
Too often, justice is taken to mean improving and implementing laws. As a result, actions tend to focus on increasing the capacity of law institutions, such as the police and courts, to improve access to justice.
Access to a system that helps to manage disputes between people is important but it is only part of what’s needed for peace. “Access” is no guarantee of the quality or fairness of a justice system, while equal access to the law is very different from equality before it.
But while the fairness of justice systems, formal or informal, should remain a common preoccupation, we also need to tackle the much larger question of how to build more just societies. Justice is not something that is merely dispensed through courts and the police. Instead, it is experienced either positively or negatively through the quality of opportunities, relationships, transactions and behaviours right across society.
To improve people’s experiences of justice, a much wider selection of actors – not just those within the criminal justice chain must be involved. We know that poverty, insecurity and injustice are man-made consequences of unfair policies and practices. We know that states can fail because, among other things, their policies exclude people from decision-making and access to resources  and this often fuels insecurity and violence.
We also know that poorly conceived economic investment can contribute to patterns of equality, environmental degradation and bad governance, all of which make conflict more likely. So this reality needs to be changed. The fundamental question centres on power, and ensuring it is “not used cynically or to dominate,  but responsibly, knowing that generosity and beneficence builds trust “
Causes of Conflict and how it can be resolved
Justice institutions actively uphold laws, power structures and norms that entrench inequality and threaten peace. We need to think of justice as the outcome of a contest over resources and power. These contests occur everywhere within and beyond the justice sector – and their outcomes can be fair and conducive to peace, or they can just as easily be the opposite. Contests around unequal access to services, jobs, land and resources, or around tax evasion or environmental degradation, can be critical justice issues, the outcomes of which have a significant bearing On peace and development. It is the task of both peacebuilders and justice experts to facilitate contests that are peaceful, without diminishing the fairness of the outcomes.
Inadequately addressing people’s everyday experiences of injustice is morally wrong as well as a driver of underdevelopment and violence. People do not live single-issue lives where justice is confined to the legal field. By pooling creative ideas on how to work more broadly on justice, we aim to catalyse action and learning on how to advance the collective interest and make progress towards a more just peace.

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