Reconciliation is one of the most contested concepts in the scholarly debate on transitional justice, and arguably also the most difficult to measure empirically. This article provides an overview and assessment of current knowledge on the relationships between transitional justice mechanisms aimed at promoting 'truth' and 'justice' and the (end) goal of 'reconciliation' in its multiple forms. It first spells out the claims about how to foster reconciliation and about how different mechanisms such as truth commissions, trials, amnesties, and local justice initiatives can be expected to contribute toward this end goal. Next, it takes stock of single-case, comparative and broad sample impact studies of reconciliation processes. It finds that reconciliation may be most usefully studied as a process rather than as a goal, and that more attention should be given to the interplay between formal and local transitional justice processes. The article concludes that methodological challenges for cross-country analysis include (1) specifying a concept of reconciliation that is narrow enough to be measurable across cases, and (2) allowing sufficient time to go by before measuring the impact of mechanisms that are postulated to bring about reconciliation.

Elin Skaar

Senior Researcher, Coordinator: Rights and Legal Institutions