Good Fences Make Good Neighbours: Assessing the Role of Consociational Politics in Transitional Justice


Brown, K., & Ní Aoláin, F. (2016). Good Fences Make Good Neighbours: Assessing the Role of Consociational Politics in Transitional Justice [PSRP Working Paper]. Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh.

Download the working paper.

Policy points:
• Transitional justice can complement consociationalism by getting at the local where it does not.
• Transitional justice has a narrative sensitivity that the institution focused consociationalism has not.
• Transitional justice can help co-existence and may defuse myths while still allowing spaces for intersectional voices and unheard stories.
• There is need for realistic expectations. Settings are difficult.

Abstract: This working paper reflects on the relationship of transitional justice theory and practice with consociational theory examining how both interact with respect to enabling or limiting conflict transformation in deeply divided ethnic polities. The paper explores the ways in which, despite substantive acknowledgement of the limits of consociationalism, it continues to be the preferred solution offered by internationally and bilaterally mediated peace negotiations as a means to address the governance crisis of deeply divided societies. In the paper the authors analyse the synergies and dissonances of how transitional justice and consociationalism support and undermine each other, and make some practical suggestions for how both could be better addressed. In particular, the paper examines how transitional justice interacts with different forms of power-sharing; the tensions in the peace versus justice debates which are central to TJ theory and practice and how they interact with consociational forms of governance; the relationship between community versus individual rights in consociational settlements; and how the emphasis on TJ theory and practice on ‘bottom-up, victim led’ processes interact with consociational debate on grassroots versus elite interactions.

Keywords: Peace Processes; Transformation

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