New Report Explores Challenges of Measuring Results of Transitional Justice Processes


New York, January 25, 2021—"You cannot deliver 500 kilograms of transitional justice,” explains a high-level UN official in a new ICTJ report released today that explores the theoretical and practical challenges of measuring the results of transitional justice processes. These processes, which are intended to deliver justice and reaffirm the dignity of victims, are complex, politically contested, and not necessarily linear. As a result, they are notoriously difficult to evaluate.

Measuring Results and Monitoring Progress of Transitional Justice Processes tackles these challenges head on, including those related to gathering data, registering unintended outcomes, reporting progress, providing feedback to interventions, and extracting useful information to establish impact. Based on ICTJ’s extensive experience and interviews with practitioners, policymakers, academics, and professional evaluators in the transitional justice field, the report offers key insights related to and tools for evaluating and monitoring transitional justice processes and assessing their impact. In an effort to reach as many practitioner, policymakers, and civil society actors as possible, the report is available in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish.

“For the most part, transitional justice, and the programs supporting it, are monitored and evaluated using the same logical frameworks, performance management tools, and evaluation criteria that were originally designed for fairly straightforward development and aid programs, like food delivery,” explains ICTJ’s senior design, monitoring, and evaluation expert and author of the report. “However, these methods alone cannot be applied in a one-size-fits-all manner to complex transitional justice processes, which are often underway in some of the most fragile and resource-poor countries on earth.”

The report examines the different roles that monitoring and evaluation systems can play and the questions they can answer at different stages of transitional justice processes. It describes their main features, including their political nature and the erratic way they develop “in fits and starts.” It also highlights the ways in which evaluation, data collection, and monitoring can help victims regain a sense of dignity and stakeholders design and implement meaningful and inclusive reforms. According to one of the experienced evaluators with whom ICTJ spoke, “For many of the people we interviewed, the fact that we were asking questions, just the possibility of being acknowledged as legitimate actors, was already an outcome.” 

In social research, no matter what issue scientists are investigating, they generally give careful consideration to the language used to frame the topic and its social implications. It is equally important for practitioners and professional evaluators in the transitional justice field to pay close attention to the language they use, particularly due to the traumatic experiences and strong emotions victims and many others associate with past violations as well as the political dimensions of the concepts, measures, and policy options under discussion. For this reason, the report delves into the issues of language and power dynamics in society. It advocates for a “user-centered” approach to measuring progress and results that prioritizes the people whom a process is meant to serve.

Through this report, ICTJ seeks to improve monitoring and evaluation practices in the transitional justice field so that they are better tailored to specific contexts and processes, collect more relevant data, and inform the design and implementation of evidence-based interventions. “We don’t have all the answers, but we hope this document serves as a spring board for further discussions with colleagues in the transitional justice field,” says Porciuncula.

PHOTO: Members of the local community in Colombia's Serranía del Perijá region participate in a cartography exercise as part of a collective memory project. (Felipe Moreno)