1 Oct 2006

On Good Terms

Clarifying Reconciliation (Report No. 14)

My aim here is to address some of the deep confusion that still surrounds the term reconciliation, and its practice in post-violence peacebuilding. Despite its generally acknowledged importance, there remains great disagreement over what reconciliation actually means and, in particular, how it relates to other concepts and processes, such as justice, peacebuilding, democratisation and political development.


David Bloomfield


I will review some of the ongoing debates, from scholarship as well as policy and practice, which highlight the disputed nature of the term, and offer a modest framework for reducing the confusion to more manageable levels. I will also examine its complex relationship to two key concepts: justice, and forgiveness. I make the important distinction between interpersonally-based understandings of reconciliation, and what is now developing as a pragmatic approach of ‘political reconciliation’. The result might be a more robust and more practical base on which to develop policy and practice so as to place reconciliation more centrally in the overall post-violence reconstruction process in protracted or profound social conflict. However, at this stage I merely raise questions and possibilities about the nature of this base.

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