Justice and Reconciliation

Wendy and research assistant, Saidu, in Sierra Leone

Wendy and research assistant, Saidu, in Sierra Leone

Dr Wendy Lambourne

My research is focussed on understanding the concepts of justice and reconciliation in different cultural contexts and conflict settings. Although I have researched and written about reconciliation in the context of indigenous-non-indigenous relations as in Australia, my main focus is on how communities pursue justice and reconciliation in the context of peacebuilding after mass violence, and especially post-genocide. I analyse and assess the various transitional justice processes and mechanisms such as war crimes tribunals, truth commissions and traditional reconciliation rituals in terms of how they address the needs and expectations of local communities recovering from mass violence and how they contribute to sustainable peacebuilding.

Related to the above is my research on peacebuilding theory and practice including the role of the United Nations and other international actors in post-conflict peacebuilding. I am particularly concerned about the principle of civil society participation and ownership and how this can contribute to the success of transitional justice mechanisms and the long-term sustainability of peacebuilding.

I have conducted field research in Cambodia (1999), Rwanda (1998 and 2005), East Timor (2004) and Sierra Leone (2006). In each country I interviewed survivors, victims, perpetrators and others in the local communities about their needs and expectations in relation to justice, reconciliation and peacebuilding.

As a result of my field research experiences I have developed my research to focus on the interaction of indigenous and introduced approaches to justice, conflict resolution and reconciliation, including the influences of colonisation, modernisation and globalisation. I am developing a model of transformative justice that is holistic and transdisciplinary, incorporating psychosocial, socioeconomic and political as well as legal perspectives on justice. I argue that incorporating the insights and languages of multiple cultural traditions could provide the key for developing new syncretic approaches to transitional justice that are transformative and supportive of sustainable peacebuilding.