Reconciliation has become an important part of postconflict peacebuilding rhetoric and practice in recent years. As nearly all conflicts today are intrastate, former enemies, perpetrators and victims, must continue living side by side after the war. Yet, attitudes and behaviors do not change at the moment of a declaration of peace. Since coexistence is necessary, the need for reconciliation is profound.
The aim of this background study is to give a shared point of departure for discussion on the critical issues of reconciliation and development after war. Reconciliation is defined and seen from a pragmatic and societal perspective; it does not mean avoiding accountability for the sake of truth, neither does it entail collective amnesia to avoid the risks of truth telling, nor interpersonal forgiveness. Reconciliation means finding a way to balance issues such as truth and justice so that the slow changing of behaviors, attitudes and emotions between former enemies can take place. It is the pragmatic work of building relationships and confidence that will hold for the pressures on peace.
In order to structure the analysis, reconciliation is suggested to be examined from three societal levels: top-level, middle-range, and grassroots. An overview is
provided of some key concerns regarding reconciliation in relation to justice, security, and politics respectively, and their policy implications discussed. Regarding
justice, recent research on truth commissions provides a basis for new development challenges. In close connection emerges the issue of security. Security risks
have not been included in the theoretical literature on truth telling and reconciliation. However, recent research indicates that if security is not provided, the
process of reconciliation may risk to backlash in increased violence or in suppression of truth. Political initiatives for reconciliation through for example legislation are crucial. However, the postconfl ict state is often quite weak thus tensions may easily arise between reconciliation needs, development ambitions, and politics. Finally, truth telling being one of the major components in reconciliation proces ses around the world today, the concerns of truth telling with regard to trauma, reparation, and culture are briefl y highlighted.
The study concludes that there is no magic formula for reconciliation; each reconciliation process needs to be designed according to the specifi c context. We urgently need empirical research to learn of general trends regarding the promises and pitfalls for processes of reconciliation.