Third Capacity Building Workshop of the African Transitional Justice Research Network

Evaluating Experiences in Transitional Justice and Reconciliation: Challenges and Opportunities for Advancing the Field

Workshop organised by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)And the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) Cape Town, 2- 4 April 2007





  1. Discuss the issues, challenges and opportunities involved in evaluating projects and programs that promote transitional justice and reconciliation.

  2. Introduce meeting participants to evaluation tools and methodologies that might assist in identifying and tracking development outcomes in such projects.

  3. Explore interest among participants in further developing evaluation approaches for assessing experiences in transitional justice and reconciliation.


1.         Formation of a group of evaluators and transitional justice practitioners and scholars who are interested in continuing a dialogue on the development of evaluation methodologies for assessing transitional justice.

2.         A list of options for `next steps` on the above.

3.         A workshop report that details the main areas of discussion, debates, challenges and constraints around current theory and practice in assessing the impact and influence that transitional justice mechanisms.

4.         Steering Committee members of the ATJRN are familiar enough with Outcome Mapping to determine whether it might figure in future capacity development activity for the Network.

DAY 1   Challenges in evaluating the “impact” that transitional justice projects or programs for reconciliation have on affected societies

9:00 –10:00

  • Introductions
  • Review of objectives and expectations of this workshop
  • Review of key concepts

10:00 – 11:00

  • What have been your most significant challenges in evaluating transitional justice and reconciliation – inter-active exercise, structured discussion in plenary

11:15 – 12:00

  • General challenges in evaluating projects and programs for reconciliation and social transformation in societies emerging from political violence. (Emery Brusset, Channel Research)

12:00 – 12:30 Questions and answers for clarification of presentation

  • Experiences from the field: Evaluation challenges encountered in a country case study (Northern Ireland)  (Brandon Hamber, INCORE)

2:15 – 3:00 Questions and answers for clarification of presentation; Structured group discussion in plenary

3:00– 4:00

  • Pair and group work

4:15 – 5:15

  • Groups report back in plenary; structured group discussion in plenary

DAY 2             Introduction to Outcome Mapping

9:00 – 10:30  Overview of Outcome Mapping with emphasis upon:

  • Behaviour change as outcomes
  • Boundary partners
  • Progress markers

11:00 – 12:30 Group work involving the practical application of Outcome Mapping

1:30 – 2:30 De-brief Group work – Presentation of mini case study outputs

2:30 – 3:15 Practitioners Vision: Two perspectives on Outcome Mapping

3:30 – 5:00  Group discussion – structured plenary - Is Outcome Mapping useful/appropriate evaluating projects/programs for transitional justice and reconciliation?

DAY 3             Moving ahead an agenda for Evaluating Transitional Justice and Reconcilation

9:15 – 10:15 Group discussion with workshop participants on possible next steps for developing and piloting methodology (ies) for evaluating transitional justice/reconciliation experiences.

10:15 – 10:30

  • Workshop evaluation

10:30 – 11:15:

  • IDRC-ATJRN Steering Committee discussion of follow-up within the ATJRN

Background to this workshop:

Transitional justice is an area that has rapidly gained attention in recent years with a significant increase in articles and books being published on the topic. Many of these works have provided valuable background information and descriptive narratives of individual national transitional justice policies, documenting much needed information on what these transitional justice mechanisms are.  There has, however, been considerably less research, particularly emanating from developing countries undergoing transitions, that seriously engages with determining how these transitional justice mechanisms have impacted society.

Transitional justice mechanisms are today assumed to be central to processes of transition to democracy and the resolution of intractable national conflicts.  Growing numbers of societies are attempting to deal with a legacy of collective violence and severe human rights violations through the functioning of mechanisms established for this purpose.  These mechanisms can take a variety of forms – from formal legal processes at an international or domestic level to memorialization initiatives, truth commissions, traditional justice and restorative justice processes, public apologies, and other symbolic acts at a national or international level.  Some initiatives are sponsored by the new government in power while others are sponsored and maintained by civil society organizations.

There has however been a strong tendency to date for governments to borrow transitional justice models from other countries, with little regard for how the models have or have not achieved their stated goals and what the effects on society are. There are many who argue that current research and related recommendations on truth commissions in particular have been implicitly promoting a “one-size-fits-all” approach to transitional justice. For example, the current literature on truth commissions has not been very helpful in providing policy makers or civil society advocacy organisations with detailed analysis of how truth commissions and other transitional justice mechanisms (e.g., national trials, international criminal tribunals, and civil society efforts with memorials and public education campaigns, etc.) have impacted societies.   The lack of critical research and appropriate frameworks for analyzing the impacts of the relatively new transitional justice mechanisms negatively impacts on civil society actors and policymakers.  Without clearly understanding how the mechanisms achieve their various goals, there is little to no evidence on which to favour one intervention over another. Similarly, in many States, those involved in transitional justice (policymakers, academics and civil society actors) have tended to lump together the goals of transitional justice and reconciliation. In some cases (e.g. South Africa, Sierra Leone), `reconciliation` is considered a secondary goal of truth commissions. In the interests of peace, a causal relationship is assumed between the two, when in fact, there is little (if any) research that actually bears this out.  This leaves policymakers and civil society actors without the means to effectively advocate for a particular approach based on evidence of its effectiveness. There is also no clear framework for evaluating the impacts of transitional justice mechanisms, which undermines the capacity of civil society groups to critically monitor the transitional justice process.

It is precisely in response to these needs that the African Transitional Justice Researchers Network (ATJRN) was created at the beginning of 2006 by the institutional partners Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Center for Democratic Development-Ghana and most recently, the Steering Committee of the Network has been joined by the Refugee Law Project, Makerere University.   The African Transitional Justice Research Network has four main components: a ‘one stop’ website which houses information on TJ literature, opportunities, information on other organizations conducting TJ work in Africa and more; a listserv for sharing information and facilitating discussion, an e-newsletter, and capacity building workshops.  A key intention of the Network is to contribute towards research that assesses the impact of transitional justice mechanisms.

At the first Steering Committee meeting in Liberia in July 2006, Steering Committee members reiterated that given the limitations of what has been done in terms of concrete evaluations of both transitional justice mechanisms as well as transitional justice related civil society work, a workshop dedicated to learning evaluation methodologies and their application to the field of transitional justice would be significant importance and would further the objectives of the ATJRN.  However, as the primary objective of the Network is to build capacity specifically amongst less experienced researchers, the complexity of evaluation methodology as well as the level of TJ background knowledge and experience that would make this workshop useful means that it could not be pitched at ATJRN’s core constituency.  Learning assessment methodologies for evaluating transitional justice mechanisms is a skill that would specifically benefit those who have worked in this field for some time and have a solid background and knowledge of transitional justice.

The current workshop responds to the above concern and is being organised by CSVR and the Evaluation Unit of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), principal supporter of the African Transitional Justice Researchers Network. Workshop participants include members of the ATJRN Steering Committee in addition to a limited number of related partners and resource people (primarily from Africa, but a limited number come from other regions).

Background Reading:

1.         Literature review on reconciliation:  (Franklin Oduro, CDD-Ghana)What do we understand by reconciliation? The paper provides an overview of emerging definitions of reconciliation and includes a basic typology that would classify “categories” of reconciliation.

2.         Outcome Mapping: The Challenges of Assessing Development Impacts (IDRC, four page brochure that provides an overview of Outcome Mapping).

3.         Sample Case Study: Social Transformation in Post-Conflict Liberia. Building Community, Fostering Peace and Reconciliation (Franklin Oduro)

4.         Other documents to be determined (presenters, etc.)

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