The Research Unit is at the forefront of developing a richer understanding of the field as a whole. ICTJ’s commitment to transitional justice research is one of the many things that make the organization distinctive.

Atypical for an organization of its size and function, ICTJ has a dedicated Research Unit. So in addition to the massive amounts of research connected with the Center’s thematic and regional work, the institution has the capacity to do fundamental research that strengthens the field and shapes its operations.

The mandate of the unit is to undertake projects that are comparative in nature, global in scope, and on topics under-researched in the field. These projects are designed to be policy friendly, and at the same time normatively rich, so as to contribute to giving content to the notion of transitional justice that ICTJ promotes. Over the past ten years, the unit has conducted ten projects.

  • Each project has led to a publication that has been a first on its topic and has become an obligatory reference, indicating both our capacity to innovate and the quality of our work.
  • Our research targets a variety of audiences, including practitioners, policymakers, academics, students, and ICTJ staff worldwide. Each project has produced a variety of outputs, including edited volumes, policy and research briefs, guidelines and principles, and reports of different kinds.
  • Our research products have had significant impact on both national and international policy, and our recommendations have been taken up by a variety of transitional justice initiatives including truth commissions, reparations programs, and others.

Current Projects

  • How Things Work

    Almost no attention has been paid to the articulation of accounts of precisely how transitional justice interventions can have the effects often attributed to them. This research project is designed to help close this gap. Its goal is to contribute to our understanding of: how transitional justice interventions work; how they achieve any effects; and the factors on which their efficacy depends. An edited volume targeted at academics, policymakers, and practitioners will be published in 2011.

  • Justice in Context: Paradigms of State and Conflict

    A paradigm of transitional justice has developed over the past 20-30 years, one that focuses on a set of specific measures—prosecutions, truth-seeking, reparations, and institutional reform—that try to redress the legacy of massive human rights abuses. This ICTJ research project will examine the preconditions, implications, and consequences of applying transitional justice measures across the increasingly wide variety of contexts in which they are implemented or advocated, hence engaging in the sort of self-reflection that helps the field to understand the necessary conditions for its own success.

  • Transitional Justice, Education, and Peacebuilding

    The Research Unit is undertaking a project that seeks to examine the links between education and transitional justice in post-conflict situations in two directions: first, by considering the ways in which education policies might fall within the scope of a justice approach; and second, by investigating the ways in which the education sector might support the long-term engagement of children and young people in justice measures.

Completed Projects

  • Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration

    In most postconflict countries both DDR and transitional justice measures are implemented, but usually in complete isolation from one another. This multiyear research project examined the relationship between DDR programs and transitional justice. The hypothesis was that the goals of such initiatives can reinforce each other and break cycles of violence by reestablishing trust and promoting reconciliation between groups. The results demonstrate how DDR programs have connected (or not) with transitional justice and allow for an initial articulation of how future programs ought to link with transitional justice aims. The project’s thematic studies were published in an edited volume, another first on this topic, in 2009, Disarming the Past.

  • Gender and Reparations

    One of the clearest results of our earlier research on reparations programs is that they tend to underserve women in various ways. This project explored ways of introducing a gender dimension into reparations programs, in order to maximize the potential redress for female victims and their families. The project collected and analyzed information about how past and ongoing reparations programs have dealt with gender issues, and articulated how the adoption of a gender perspective in reparations could better serve women's justice interests. The results were presented in two edited volumes: What Happened to the Women? in 2006 and The Gender of Reparations in 2009.

  • Identities in Transition

    Although this is not an aspect that has been emphasized, there has hardly been a transition in which issues of identity, ethnic or other, has not been an important factor, either as a root cause of the violence, as a factor that is used as an instrument of conflict, or as one that in any case needs to be addressed in the aftermath of abuse. This project seeks, first, to ensure that transitional justice measures are sensitive to the ways in which targeting people on the basis of ethnic or religious identity may cause distinctive harms, and, second, to clarify the political challenges that arise where communities are not ready to cooperate. The project culminated in the publication of Identities in Transition in 2011. A comprehensive report, published in November 2009, provides guidance to policymakers and practitioners.

  • Outreach

    The aims of this project are to examine the outreach initiatives of transitional justice measures to date, to provide practitioners with practical guidance in the design and implementation of effective outreach strategies, and to raise awareness of the fundamental importance of outreach among practitioners and policymakers. Based on this careful examination of previous experiences as well as analysis of the role outreach can play, a concise guideline document entitled Making an Impact was published in 2011.

  • Reparations

    This ambitious research project presents detailed information about attempts to provide reparations to victims of human rights violations through massive programs. At the same time, it seeks to stimulate thinking about which justice criteria can and should be applied to large numbers of claims. The project culminated with the publication in 2006 of The Handbook of Reparations, a groundbreaking collection of essays analyzing massive reparations programs for victims of human rights violations. The book includes a section with numerous primary documents and legislation.

  • Transitional Justice and Development

    Most countries that experience massive abuses have deep deficits from the standpoint of both development and of justice. Indeed, these are related to each other in complicated ways. This project, the first of its kind, seeks to clarify the links between two fields that have proceeded largely isolated from one another. The project identified and analyzed synergies between transitional justice and development, and articulated how such initiatives ought to be designed and implemented to reinforce the shared goals of citizenship, social integration, and peacebuilding. The research led to an edited volume, Transitional Justice and Development, published in 2009.

  • Transitional Justice and Displacement

    In collaboration with the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, this project examined how transitional justice can be used to address the range of injustices associated with displacement and thereby serve as part of a comprehensive approach to the resolution of displacement. It also analyzed the conceptual and practical links between transitional justice and other policy interventions dealing with displacement. Research products include an edited volume, a report, and a set of case studies.

  • Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society

    The Research Unit’s previous project on outreach highlighted the importance of other paths of public engagement in the transitional justice process, beyond the interventions of justice measures themselves in the political and judicial spheres. To complement and expand on this work, the Research Unit initiated a project on transitional justice, culture, and society, which will explore the role of media, cultural interventions, and education in transmitting the messages of transitional justice processes.

  • Vetting

    This comprehensive, multiyear research project examined vetting processes in countries emerging from armed conflict and authoritarianism. More than being a means of punishing individuals, the research found, vetting can make an important contribution to: reestablishing civic trust and re-legitimizing abusive public institutions; disabling structures within which individuals carried out serious abuses; and removing obstacles to transitional reform. In 2007 the project culminated in the publication of Justice as Prevention.