Nexus Between Transitional Justice and Development


On April 29, 2014, ICTJ participated in the launch of a new report from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) on the relationship between transitional justice and development.

The report, titled Using Transitional Justice to Promote Development and authored by Helena Sancho, was presented at an internal Sida event.

In its examination of the important linkages between these two fields, the report draws on the experiences of Guatemala and Bosnia and Herzegovina, two countries which are still today addressing the legacy of a violent past. In these scenarios, as the report notes, a missed opportunity to support transitional justice is a missed opportunity for the goals of development:

Justice, rule of law and trust are if possible even more interlinked as they have the capacity to mutually strengthen each other but also to affect each other in a negative way. There can be no trust in the state without justice for serious human rights violations, no justice without rule of law, and in reality no rule of law without trust in the system and in the justice institutions.

As a guest to to the event, ICTJ President David Tolbert was invited by Sida to deliver remarks on the tightly intertwined goals of transitional justice and development.

In his speech, Tolbert shared ICTJ's experiences working in both Colombia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For example, as the government of Colombia continues peace talks with the FARC rebels in Havana, Tolbert explained that issues of economics, infrastructure, and distribution of resources lie at the heart of the conflict:

In terms of development, when we examine the situation in Colombia, we are essentially looking at two different realities: the reality of those living in thriving urban centers such as Bogotá, and those living in poor, rural areas. While Colombia is recognized as a steadily-growing middle-income country, the image masks severe inequalities, where the poorest and most marginalized continue to suffer the consequences of a conflict that has lasted decades. This duality really lies at the center of the conflict, and fuels an illicit rural economy including drug trafficking, extortion, illegal mining, and more. [...] Despite these hurdles, ICTJ has been able to support the implementation of a comprehensive transitional justice program, providing comparative and specific policy advice to the authorities in charge of implementing reparations, as well as to those working on truth-seeking and historical memory.

Reflecting on the development challenges in Bosnia and Herzegonia after the break up of the former Yugoslavia, Tolbert pointed to ongoing questions of truth and justice midst sharp political and ethnic-based tensions that continue in the region:

As the Sida Trend paper notes, there are many important achievements in terms of transitional justice processes in Bosnia. In particular, the Bosnia State Court, which both in both design and implementation is a model for criminal accountability for serious crimes, including corruption. However, the ethnically-based nature of the Dayton Accords—and the entities that it established—has undermined those efforts.

In closing, Tolbert pointed to the importance of linking the justice and development sectors in the post-2015 process, and, quoting UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, reminded that "poverty will not be eradicated without justice."

Download the full remarks of David Tolbert here.

The linkages between development and transitional justice have also been explored by ICTJ in our recent research project, which culminated in the book Transitional Justice and Development: Making Connections.

Photo: A woman walks in Guatemala City, Guatemala. (Amauri Aguiar via Flickr)