Building Blocks for Reparations: Providing Interim Relief to Victims Through Targeted Development Assistance

Sarah Kasande Kihika and Eva Kallweit
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The armed conflict in Northern Uganda, stretching across more than two decades, greatly affected the populations of Northern Uganda, which suffered multiple forms of war crimes and gross abuses of human rights. Violations included forced displacement, pillaging, looting and destruction of property, abduction, forced recruitment, slavery, forced marriage, sexual violence, psychological harms, mutilation, killings, torture, and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. These violations have had long-term social and economic consequences for victims, affecting and impairing their functionality, livelihoods, schooling, physical and mental health, social skills, self-esteem, and interpersonal relations in the post-conflict period, with differential impacts on men, women, boys, and girls. This study assesses the opportunities for providing interim relief to victims of conflict-related human rights violations through targeted development programs, pending the establishment of a comprehensive reparations program.

Reparations are a response to gross human rights violations, meant to provide redress in its many forms, including compensation to victims. Development assistance differs from reparations in that it is aimed at improving the general socioeconomic conditions of citizens more broadly. This report acknowledges the distinctions between reparations and development, while exploring intersections between the two that could be optimized to address the urgent needs of victims of human rights violations. It identifies substantive and practical considerations that government authorities at the national and local levels should take into account when designing and implementing reconstruction and development programs, and it proposes ways to maximize the potential of ongoing programs to address the immediate needs of victims and mitigate the effects of the abuses they endured. Finally, the study explains how existing recovery and development programs could increase victims’ access, improve their implementation modalities, and address the various challenges and gaps that limit programs’ effectiveness. If they are appropriately designed, local recovery and reconstruction programs can form a foundation upon which reparative approaches can be based and built in the future.