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date: 16 August 2017

The Role of Reparations in the Transition from Violence to Peace

Summary and Keywords

Reparations are among the most tangible, victim-centric, and personal of processes in the transition from violence to peace, symbolizing the recognition that an individual has been harmed and has rights in the eyes of the state or international community. Reparations are also an inherently political project, transforming official visions of violence, responsibility, and victimization into material and psychological benefit. Despite the power of reparations to shape transitions from violence to peace, they have been too often ignored in practice, leaving most victims of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law without reparation. Partly as a consequence, research has tended to focus more on “harder” processes, like trials and truth commissions, than on the “stepchild of postconflict justice.” Yet, there have been significant developments in reparations theory and practice that motivate key outstanding questions for researchers.

Reparations derive their symbolic power from the law, which is an imperfect tool for responding to the varied forms of violence experienced in conflict and to the diverse, sometimes contradictory, priorities and needs that people hold. In such contexts, there is an inherent tension between expanding reparations programs to be inclusive and adaptable and preserving their fundamental distinction as a justice process. This is a difficult balance to strike, but there are frameworks and questions that can offer useful guidance. In particular, the lenses of economic violence and positive peace are useful for articulating the role of reparations in postconflict transitions, offering conceptual expansion beyond transitional justice’s traditional concern for political violence without delving too far into the customary terrain of development or postconflict reconstruction.

Yet, the specific mechanisms through which the inward and outward feelings and attitudes and broader social changes that reparations are expected to produce remain undertheorized in transitional justice scholarship, in large part because of a lack of empirical evidence about how recipients experience them in practice. Does the restoration of civic trust, for example, depend upon recipients of individual reparations telling their neighbors about their payments? Does recognition as a citizen depend upon a beneficiary publicly self-identifying as a victim? Questions like these about the particular variables that drive reparations outcomes represent the next frontier for transitional justice researchers interested in the role of reparations in the transition from violence to peace.

Keywords: reparations, transitional justice, conflict, peace, economic violence, human rights


Reparations are among the most tangible, victim-centric, and personal of processes in the transition from violence to peace, symbolizing the recognition that an individual has been harmed and has rights in the eyes of the state or international community. They are also an inherently political project, transforming official visions of violence, responsibility and victimization into material and psychological benefit. Despite the power of reparations to shape transitions from violence to peace, they have been too often ignored in practice, leaving most victims of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law without reparation (de Greiff, 2014, p. 21; Olsen, Payne, & Reiter, 2010). Partly as a consequence, research has tended to focus more on “harder” processes, like trials and truth commissions, than on the “stepchild of postconflict justice” (Roht-Arriaza, 2008, p. 233).

Yet, there have been significant developments in reparations theory and practice, which motivate key outstanding questions for researchers. While the right to reparation has been established in international law (United Nations, 2005), conceptions of reparative justice have been challenged by debates over the boundaries of human rights and transitional justice. In practice, reparations programs have been implemented in diverse conflict and postconflict contexts through a variety of legal and administrative procedures and to varying ends. Such trends pose important questions about the politics, symbolism, and ultimate impact of reparations, particularly as they are implemented and experienced in practice in transitions from violence to peace. The existing research has painted a somewhat bleak picture of the ability of reparations to fulfill their often-lofty promises, but also sets the stage for promising avenues of future research to identify the particular variables that matter most for reparations outcomes.


Reparations are measures provided out of obligation to redress the harm caused to an injured party, “embracing both the substance of relief as well as the procedure through which it may be obtained” (REDRESS, 2003, p. 8). They can be individual, collective, material, and symbolic, and can be provided through a broad array of forms and procedures. Contemporary conceptions of reparations are based on principles of corrective justice. This model, however, has adapted as the fields of human rights and transitional justice (TJ) have themselves developed, with reparations increasingly being implemented in contexts of extreme poverty, with massive numbers of victims, and, sometimes, ongoing violence. A number of overlapping tensions have emerged from this history, motivating debate over what “transition” and “justice” mean for reparations, both normatively and in practice: tensions occur between reparations as a state obligation and an individual right; between legal and socioeconomic approaches to reparative justice; and, relatedly, between reparations as a justice process and as part of postconflict peacebuilding.

Legal and Historical Contexts

A brief review of the legal framework for reparations is essential to understanding both their transformative potential and their inherent limitations (see Evans, 2012; Moffett, 2017). Conceptions of reparative justice are rooted in notions of redress from private law, based on “more ancient principles of corrective justice” (Moffett, 2017; see also de Greiff, 2009a). In their most basic articulation, reparations are meant to restore what victims lost (restitutio in integrum) to help return them to their pre-harm situation (status quo ante). Reparations “must, as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed” (Factory at Chorzów, Germany v Poland, 1928; cited in REDRESS, 2003, p. 7).

Under international human rights law, the rights of individuals to claim reparations in light of abuses by the state and nonstate actors have been widely recognized (see de Greiff, 2006b, p. 455 for a partial list; Evans, 2012; Trindade, 2011; United Nations, 2005). Following the retributive justice of the Nuremburg and Tokyo Tribunals, international and regional human rights bodies pushed the development of jurisprudence on reparations through their respective case law, replacing restitutio in integrum with a notion of “remedial” justice, focused not on full restitution, but on remedying the harm suffered and acknowledging both the rights of the victim and the responsibility of the perpetrator (Ahmadou Sadio Diallo, Republic of Guinea v Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2012; cited in Moffett, 2017). In particular, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court) helped establish the customary forms through which reparations are conceived, codified in the U.N.’s 2005 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (Basic Principles) as restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of nonrepetition (United Nations, 2005).

The Basic Principles were the culmination of years of work to establish reparation as an international human right (for a history of the Van Boven Commission, see Shelton, 2005; for further background, see van Boven, 1993). They also set the human rights standard for states’ obligation to guarantee access to reparation even when not responsible for the harm suffered. While the Inter-American Court has ordered states to compensate victims for failing to protect them, the Basic Principles established that states should provide reparation also “in the event that the parties liable for the harm suffered are unable or unwilling to meet their obligations” (United Nations, 2005, Principles 16–17; see also Nairobi Declaration, Principles 5–6). While such parties can include individuals or corporations, the principle of “subsidiarity” reflects a core tension in reparations programs that motivates a number of debates and research questions. In theory, much of the symbolic power of reparations stems from their provision by a party directly responsible for harm, but in practice they often originate from states and/or are funded by donors.

Such a tension is also present in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which further developed international reparations law in response to persistent criticism of ad-hoc international criminal tribunals that they did not do enough for victims. The Rome Statute recognized the right of individuals harmed by genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity to claim reparation from individual perpetrators. Understanding that individuals would often be unable to fund reparations on a massive scale, but also constrained in their ability to allude to state responsibility, the drafters of the Rome Statute established a trust fund “through” which reparations could be ordered against a guilty party with funds collected from member states and other donors (Rome Statute, Articles 75, 79; for an analysis of these debates, see Sperfeldt, 2016). Neither the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia nor the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had any such provisions or mechanisms. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia provide for moral and collective reparations, but they must be financed externally by NGOs and donors. The Special Court for Sierra Leone had no provisions for reparations, although the state implemented a national reparations program following a truth and reconciliation commission. In contrast, the ICC has the most robust reparations regime, due largely to the insistence of particular state parties from civil law countries and advocacy by civil society (Dixon & Tenove, 2013; Glasius, 2006; Haslam, 2011; Sperfeldt, 2016).

While the law of postconflict reparations has developed through international human rights and criminal law bodies, its practice has largely developed through state-based administrative programs. Such programs are based on international law, but replace judicial proceedings with mass-claims systems whereby eligibility is assessed outside the courtroom according to particular criteria stated in the law and to varying levels of verification and burdens of proof. While there is diversity among the forms of violence recognized across such laws, they have tended to focus more on violations of political and civil rights (like murder, disappearances, or other egregious acts that harm the personal integrity of the victim or next of kin) than on violations of economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights and other forms of “economic violence,” like plundering of public resources or destruction of infrastructure (Arbour, 2006; Sharp, 2014b).

Often, reparations are preceded by truth and reconciliation commissions (Olsen et al., 2010), which propose the scope and goals of reparations, as in South Africa, Peru, and Sierra Leone. The truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs) can galvanize political support for reparations programs, but they can also set expectations that reparations programs can in turn fail to meet when they do not conform to TRC findings or proposals (see Laplante & Theidon, 2007). Colombia is an interesting case of a massive reparations program’s being implemented before any wide-scale truth and reconciliation program or peace agreement. Such programs provide redress according to eligible acts of violence, but do not necessarily ascribe guilt or responsibility. Members of nonstate armed groups, furthermore, are generally excluded from claiming reparations.

Most domestic reparations programs also combine reparations with some form of interim relief, humanitarian assistance, or development aid, either in the same legislation ( as in Colombia), through subsequent laws (as in Peru and Nepal), or merged, as in Indonesia, where a collective reparations program for the Aceh region was folded into a World Bank-funded development project (ICTJ, 2012). Among international reparations programs, the combination of reparations and assistance is essentially unique to the ICC. While the Inter-American Court can make use of “provisional measures” to grant protection to victims, only the ICC, through its Trust Fund for Victims, clearly differentiates between reparations and assistance in its regulatory framework. Such trends at the state and international criminal levels have led to tensions between reparation as a judicial award and reparation as part of a project of humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, or development.

The tension has become more acute as states or international actors have increasingly implemented reparations programs in contexts of extreme poverty, with massive numbers of affected people. This expansion created a number of conceptual and practical challenges, including how to account for and verify all eligible victims, how to recognize the full extent of harms suffered, and how to find the resources needed to pay for such large-scale programs (de Greiff, 2006b). To some extent, the distinction between individual, collective, material, and symbolic forms of reparation has given designers needed flexibility. At the same time, the human rights-based model of corrective justice on which the international right to reparation has been based has strained to account for the diversity of victims’ lived experiences during and after conflict.

Since the 1980s and 1990s, as TJ expanded beyond the third wave of so-called “paradigmatic transitions” with which it was initially associated (see Arthur, 2009; Sharp, 2015), a number of broader TJ debates have emerged about whether and how to move beyond a human rights-based lens. Scholars have called for a shift from legalism (McEvoy, 2007), for a stronger embrace of distributive justice (Nagy, 2008; Sriram, 2014), and for a fuller incorporation of economic violence and violations of ESC rights into TJ (Sharp, 2014b). Today, however, elements of the broader field still betray a bias toward legalism, privileging violations of political and civil rights or subsuming the full range of available reparations measures to financial compensation. Before delving into these trends and their implications for reparations research, however, it is important to review the normative and conceptual starting points for assessing reparations programs in practice.

Normative Theories of Reparative Justice

While theoretical work on reparations has helped articulate a concept of reparative justice adapted to contexts of large-scale violence and reflective of reparations as a political project, the field lacks a solid empirical base in TJ. As a result, theories tend to be normative in nature. Most of this work is rooted in de Greiff’s (2006b, p. 459) essay “Justice and Reparations,” which articulated a conception of massive reparations programs as helping to satisfy “conditions of justice” for victims through three broad outcomes: their recognition as citizens with equal rights; the restoration of their civic trust in each other, the state, and the law; and the promotion of social solidarity via a focus on common interests. Such outcomes are both multidimensional (psychosocial and material) and multilevel (individual and social). At the individual level, recipients are expected to perceive reparations in certain ways and to benefit in certain ways after receiving them. Socially, recipients are expected to feel a stronger connection to their families, communities, and, ultimately, states.

In their most basic articulation, reparations are intended to provide a sense of justice to victims (United Nations, 2005, Article 15). In contrast to assistance or charity, reparations are awarded on the basis of accountability and responsibility and therefore symbolize vindication (Danieli, 2009, p. 41; Moffett, 2014, p. 47). In the case of state-based programs, where reparations generally stem from a state’s failure to guarantee rights, the principle of responsibility is substituted by that of subsidiarity, as noted. At the ICC, provisions for reparations and assistance raise important questions about the meaning of reparation when it is provided or funded by an entity not directly responsible for committing, or failing to prevent, the harm suffered. The Trust Fund for Victims has already funded “assistance” projects in two countries where it will likely also fund “reparations.” As to whether the latter can be meaningfully called reparation, however, is a question that requires research on how such programs are experienced and received in practice.

Reparations should also bestow a sense of recognition on their recipients—as victims of wrongful acts and, more broadly, as citizens endowed with rights (Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky, 2009, pp. 172, 179). This entails a strong symbolic component that assistance and charity do not have, and that, in theory, adds value beyond an award’s actual material worth. It is also often assumed that victims want to be recognized, by states in the case of large-scale political violence, or by the international community in the case of international criminal proceedings (Dixon, 2016). According to the ICC (2010, p. 4), “Victims have indicated they want to be recognized by the international community at large as victims of the crimes committed against themselves, their families, neighbors, and ethnic groups.”

From a normative perspective, recognition plays a powerful role in transitions from violence to peace for several reasons. It is intended to bestow a civic identity upon the most disenfranchised and subjugated groups in transitional societies, enabling their re-emergence as members of a public and, therefore, their re-engagement as active citizens with renewed trust in the state’s institutions (de Greiff, 2006b; Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky, 2009). Relatedly, recognition is seen to socialize individuals’ suffering, pulling victims out of their “internal worlds” and acknowledging the political origins of their harm (Hamber, 2006, p. 571). Reparations, therefore, entail both a private and public moment. They recognize individuals as dignified and deserving of respect, while also promoting public acceptance of the victims’ own self- and group-identities (Fraser, 1999; Verdeja, 2006, 2008). Verdeja made perhaps the most ambitious argument about reparations’ potential as a form of recognition. By combining recognition with redistribution, he argued, reparations can respond to the unique and potent combination of identity-based subjugation and economic marginalization that stems from political violence.

Another way in which reparations are seen to help victims “rejoin” their society or state is by promoting physical and psychological healing. Hamber (2001, 2006), Danieli (1995, 2009), and others (Wemmers, 2014) have articulated theories of reparative healing that combine victims’ sense of justice with the vindication experienced through public recognition. Reparations should also improve their recipients’ material well-being. While there is variation in the means of distribution, such as financial versus in-kind, lump sum payments versus pensions, or individual versus family-based transfers, most agree that at an individual or family level, reparations should impart some basic material benefit—a “developmental boost” (de Greiff, 2009a), which may in turn combine to make broader contributions to societies’ development goals. As noted, some also argue that reparations programs should seek to fundamentally transform society through the redistribution of resources.

At a social level, reparations are often expected to improve attitudes toward the state and trust in its institutions, in particular the rule of law. From this perspective, TJ implies a contract between victim and state in which the victim re-engages as a citizen in exchange for the state’s providing the moral and economic means to do so (de Greiff, 2006b, 2009a). On one level, as the most tangible of TJ measures, reparations send the message that the state has recognized its culpability and/or responsibility, that it cares about those harmed by conflict, and that it will seek to uphold its responsibility in the future (Danieli, 2009). More fundamentally, reparations seek to reinforce people’s trust in each other and confidence in the rule of law as a civic norm, thereby ameliorating one of the long-term consequences of conflict (de Greiff, 2009a; Duthie, 2009, 2014; Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky, 2009; Rubio-Marín & de Greiff, 2007). The rule of law is a broad topic with an extensive literature, but its link to TJ broadly, and reparations more specifically, is in the fact that it depends both on the capacity of legal rules to guide conduct and on the extent to which people have confidence in, and abide by, the rules (see Fallon, 1997; Hadfield & Weingast, 2014; Haggard, MacIntyre, & Tiede, 2008; Kaufmann, Kraay, & Mastruzzi, 2010).

Finally, reparations are seen to contribute to the broader TJ goals of improving social relations, restoring trust, and, ultimately, promoting reconciliation (Arriaza & Roht-Arriaza, 2008; de Greiff, 2006b, 2009a, 2012; Duthie, 2009; Hamber, 2006; Philpott, 2015; Skaar, 2013; Verdeja, 2008). Reparations can do this through a variety of hypothesized means: by socializing personalized suffering, by recognizing marginalized groups, by encouraging trust in the state, and by attaching benefits to particular visions of conflict, thereby encouraging societies to reconsider their histories while undermining perpetrators’ narratives that justified their atrocities (Verdeja, 2006, 2008). Colombia’s official recognition of the existence of an “armed conflict” through its national reparations program, for example, represented a marked shift away from previous narratives of the conflict as a legitimate state struggle against illegal armed groups (Sánchez & Yepes, 2011). At the same time, it also illustrates that reparations programs can serve to legitimize official narratives that exclude certain forms of violence and marginalize minorities and/or nonstate actors.

Some have noted a trend in postconflict reparations toward collective forms that privilege relationships and the reduction of stigma over individual benefit (Rubio-Marín, 2009b). The ICC’s first decision on reparations principles is a case in point (Dixon, 2015). The Trial Chamber noted the growing recognition in international criminal law of a need to “go beyond the notion of punitive justice” and decided in this spirit that reparations should include a collective approach and be “broad,” “flexible,” and “inclusive,” securing, wherever possible, “reconciliation between the convicted person, the victims of the crimes and the affected communities” (Reparations Decision, Trial Chamber, Lubanga, August 7, 2012, para. 177, 180, 193, 219).

Taxonomy of Reparations Programs

The practice of providing reparations in postconflict contexts through administrative state programs and via human rights and international criminal courts is diverse, as are the expected outcomes of programs. To better categorize them within the broader context of TJ, de Greiff (2006a) proposed a taxonomy, which is particularly useful for designing comparative research on reparations. The taxonomy’s classifiers are: scope, completeness, comprehensiveness, complexity, coherence, finality, and munificence, to which Rubio-Marín (2009a, pp. 11–12) proposed adding transformative potential and openness.

A program’s scope is the number of victims it includes. In transitions from violence to peace, the scope is generally very large, which poses a number of challenges. There are similar challenges with program completeness, or the extent to which reparations reach the total population of potential victims. Completeness is limited by the rights or violent acts recognized as eligible, the program’s outreach efforts, and the eligibility standards that claimants must meet to access awards. It is closely related to comprehensiveness, or a program’s coverage of the crimes or harms addressed. In some countries, like Argentina, distinct violations are covered by separate laws, while other programs, like those in Guatemala, Peru, and Colombia, list the total universe of eligible crimes in a single piece of legislation. Overall, the trend appears to be moving in the direction of more comprehensiveness via single programs.

Complexity entails the particular forms through which reparations are provided, whether as individual, collective, symbolic, or material, and within these, whether as financial compensation, land restitution, health care, education grants, in-kind support, etc. Again, the trend appears to be moving toward more complexity, at least on paper. Even when limited to financial compensation, there are important variables related to complexity. Compensation can take the form of lump-sum payments or pensions and is sometimes accompanied by investment and financial counseling. In some cases, providing compensation directly to certain individuals in a family has strained family relations: for example, in contexts where women have not had access to bank accounts to receive funds, as in South Africa (Goldblatt, 2007).

Coherence can be assessed both internally, according to the extent to which a program’s various forms of reparations support each other, and externally, according to the program’s integration with concurrent transitional mechanisms. As noted, this is an important variable in assessing the impact of reparations programs in transitions from violence to peace, as the existing empirical research suggests that when reparations follow truth commissions, as in Peru and South Africa, recipients may have higher expectations, which reparations may in turn not be able to meet (Backer, 2010; Laplante & Theidon, 2007).

Finality refers to whether receiving reparations bars the recipient from pursuing further avenues of redress. In large-scale programs, where a significant portion of the population is likely eligible for reparations from the state under international law, the finality of their claims is one of the main incentives for states to establish administrative programs. Yet, in such programs, where there is recognition of harm with limited or no ascription of responsibility, the trade-off between reparations now or justice later can be a stark one for victims on the receiving end. Munificence, finally, refers to the total dollar value of all benefits provided, both financial and other. This can vary according to the forms provided as well as different valuations of harm entailed in each law, a point that up to now has benefitted from relatively little empirical research.

In light of de Greiff’s taxonomy, a number of scholars have developed and challenged his framework. Their contributions stem from debates related to the exclusion of minority groups; the role of women in reparations programs and the complexities of redressing violence against women; and the relationship between reparations and distributive justice. In response, Rubio-Marín (2009a) proposed the addition of transformative potential and openness, highlighting that, from a normative perspective, reparations should not just reproduce the status quo, but fundamentally transform the structural drivers of conflict and be open to affected individuals and groups through a consultative process (see also Duggan & Guillerot, 2008). Dixon (2016) proposed a schema of five dimensions by which reparations can be compared to assistance projects, especially when the two are provided in tandem as part of the same program: responsibility, recognition, process, form, and impact.

Key Debates

Normative theories of reparations after conflict relate to a number of broader debates. These stem, on the one hand, from the application of traditional corrective justice principles to contexts of mass atrocity and economic deprivation, and, on the other hand, from the small but growing pool of data about their application in practice in these contexts.

In postconflict reparations programs, the scale of conflict and the number of victims pose dilemmas for states and international donors who have to allocate scarce resources (Duthie, 2009). A variety of mass-claims systems have been used in postconflict countries, but all have their drawbacks. Reparations, furthermore, are by definition awards provided for specific violations or categories of harm, yet people experience multidimensional and multilayered forms of violence during conflict, both political and economic in nature. This can often create a mismatch between legal and local representations of suffering. Finally, in the transition from violence to peace, the desire for justice exists alongside many other, often more pressing, priorities. In this context, reparations can be seen as simply one more means to the ultimate goal of survival, and may not necessarily benefit the recipient if, for example, an award brings with it unwanted public attention or stigma.

Postconflict Priorities, Development, and Socioeconomic Justice

The cumulative evidence highlights a conflict between TJ’s prioritization of accountability for violations of political and civil rights and local concerns for security, livelihood, reconciliation, and justice (Branch, 2011; Hovil & Quinn, 2005; Lundy & McGovern, 2008; McEvoy, 2007; Sharp, 2013b; Shaw, Waldorf, & Hazan, 2010; Vinck & Pham, 2008; Weinstein, Vinck, Fletcher, & Pham, 2010). In response, debates have emerged about how to adapt and expand the field of TJ both conceptually and in practice (see International Journal of Transitional Justice volumes edited by Fletcher, 2015; Mani, 2008). The concerns can be categorized according to three overlapping themes, all with significant implications for the study of reparations. First, some scholars argue for the primacy of victims’ perceptions and priorities in guiding TJ strategies. Second, there is broad recognition that TJ and development overlap. Finally, there is an emerging focus on economic violence, which seeks to preserve the unique legal core of TJ, while incorporating the violation of economic, social, and cultural rights as legitimate targets of its mechanisms.

From a “perceptions” perspective, researchers argue that TJ mechanisms, especially reparations, should incorporate principles of sustainable human development rooted in local ownership and consultation (Vinck & Pham, 2008). They cite an impressive body of representative surveys from diverse countries in which development and security concerns outrank desires for justice (for a recent example, see Vinck & Pham, 2014; for an overview, see Weinstein et al., 2010; Wemmers, 2014). A notable innovation in the perceptions framework is the Everyday Peace Indicators project, which collects bottom-up narratives of peace and conflict to simultaneously challenge and inform the “imaginaries” that guide experts’ TJ work (Mac Ginty & Firchow, 2016).

Because they are the most tangible of TJ mechanisms and the closest in form to assistance and aid, reparations have been central to articulations of the links between TJ more broadly and development (de Greiff, 2009b; Dixon, 2016, 2017; Roht-Arriaza, 2014; Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky, 2009). Such connections challenge scholars to establish links between the two fields while preserving what de Greiff (2009a, p. 29) calls a “sensible division of labor.” Development has undergone a number of internal shifts and expansions that further complicate the task of establishing boundaries. Today, the broader development field addresses issues of security (World Bank, 2011), human rights (Alston & Robinson, 2005; Andreassen & Marks, 2010; Uvin, 2004), and human development (Nussbaum, 2011; Sen, 2001).

These reflect a broad turn in development thinking away from economic growth orthodoxy toward a definition of development as social justice. Such shifts have motivated a focus on issues like inequality, exclusion, and violent conflict; on programmatic areas like reintegration and postconflict reconstruction; and on cross-cutting issues like conflict sensitivity, gender mainstreaming, participation, and local ownership, all of which are directly relevant to, and have informed, reparations programs. Reparations are central to the future-oriented moment of TJ and as such, can help contribute to broader developmental goals. They can help victims rejoin productive activities, while at the societal level they can highlight transitional countries’ institutional deficits and focus resources on improving service provision (de Greiff, 2009a).

Yet, there are fundamental limitations to reparations’ developmental potential, particularly for those interested in TJ’s more critical, distributive moment. Reparations can also individualize harm and suffering, obfuscating and, ultimately, exacerbating inequality and poverty (Miller, 2008). In larger, state-based programs, reparations can take resources away from, or even replace, social or economic services to which citizens have a right (Duthie, 2009). Governments can also try to package development programs as reparations programs and vice versa (Roht-Arriaza, 2014). Ultimately, there are important costs to consider in implementing reparations programs in resource-poor settings, where weakened institutions call into question the ability of states to follow through on their promises of reparative justice and underscore that societies’ developmental needs may take priority over TJ.

Here, the notion of economic violence offers a useful perspective by framing some elements of development and peacebuilding as justice issues without expanding TJ so far as to lose its meaning. The term economic violence incorporates violations of economic and social rights, corruption, and plunder of natural resources (Sharp, 2014a, p. 5). Sharp contrasted it to more “direct” acts of physical violence, like murder, rape, torture, disappearances, and other violations of civil and political rights, but noted that the terms are oversimplified and overlapping. Their value, rather, is in highlighting TJ’s traditional concern with physical/political violence at the expense of the economic consequences of mass violence and, just as important, the structural drivers of conflict. Proponents of incorporating the lens of economic violence seek to push TJ to include the economic consequences and causes of mass violence as legitimate targets for reparation and other mechanisms, critically reorienting TJ away from its liberal origins while still maintaining its fundamental and unique legal orientation (Arthur, 2009; Lambourne, 2009, 2013; Laplante, 2008, 2015; Mani, 2002; Miller, 2008; Roht-Arriaza, 2014; Sharp, 2013a, 2015, 2014b).

From this perspective, reparations are part of a broader peace-building process geared not just toward the absence of direct violence, or “negative peace,” but also toward “positive peace,” which includes both negative peace and the absence of “more indirect forms of violence, including forms of structural violence such as poverty, corruption, radical economic, social, civil, and political inequalities, and other forms of social injustice” (see Galtung, 1969; Sharp, 2014a, p. 21). This lens can help expand official conceptions of conflict and violence to be more in line with local experiences of violence, leading to reparations programs that are more in line with victims’ postconflict priorities. It can also shine a spotlight on seemingly normal courses of development that violate economic rights (Roht-Arriaza, 2014): For example, when populations are forcibly displaced for development projects, or communities are dispossessed of their land for resource privatization, are these the normal course of development, or are they instances of economic violence whose victims are deserving of redress?

At the same time, the economic violence narrative also carries its own internal debate relevant to reparations. On the one hand, Laplante (2013, 2015) and others see reparations as founded on more “emancipatory” notions of distributive justice, geared ultimately toward addressing economic exclusion. Along these lines, García-Godos (2013) and Brett and Malagon (2013), for example, have shown that victims’ groups and trade unions in Colombia and Peru, respectively, were essential for incorporating socioeconomic rights and distributive justice into more emancipatory TJ processes. Other scholars who recognize the importance of economic violence for TJ, however, are far more modest in the transformative potential they ascribe to reparations and other mechanisms, situating them in a more traditional conception of corrective justice (de Greiff, 2009a; Duthie, 2014).

Sense of Justice and the Principle of Responsibility

While the sense of justice that reparations are meant to impart derives primarily from the principle of responsibility underlying them, this principle is by no means clear-cut (Dixon, 2016). Under criminal law, when a perpetrator is indigent, trust funds are often used to fund an award, often through third-party voluntary contributions. In state-based reparations, the state assumes responsibility under the principle of subsidiarity, not for the actual violence suffered, but for the well-being of its citizens or, in a minority of cases, its failure to protect them. The proliferation of nonstate actors, furthermore, presents a dilemma to reparations scholarship (Moffett, 2016).

The limited empirical evidence suggests that reparations do generally hold the power to provide victims with a sense of justice, but that they can also exacerbate victims’ sense of injustice when poorly attuned to their expectations, especially regarding what the state owes them. States’ failures to live up to expectations for reparations set during truth and reconciliation processes, for example, have hindered victims’ sense of justice in Peru, where people perceived “truth without consequences” (Laplante & Theidon, 2007), and in South Africa, where the eventual reparations program did not conform to the proposals of the TRC (Backer, 2010). Danieli (2009) and Garcia-Godos (2008), respectively, found that compensation in Germany and Guatemala were important components of victims’ sense of justice because they symbolized an apology from the state, but only under certain conditions—routine, long-term payments were well received, while one-time lump sums inspired feelings of sadness and guilt.

Reparations programs can also backfire when poorly aligned with victims’ locally defined conceptions of the violence they suffered (Garcia-Godos, 2008; ICTJ & APRODEH, 2011; Miller, 2008; Sankey, 2014; Theidon, 2012; Viaene, 2009). Theidon’s (2012) work on Peru underscores that states’ definition of violence and their categorization of victims for the purpose of reparations can exacerbate local relations and perceptions of the state when they contradict local definitions of victim and perpetrator. Viaene (2009) showed that when Mayan communities who desired collective reparations were provided individual cash awards by the Guatemalan state in exchange for the family members they lost, the recipients felt that the awards disrespected their deceased loved ones.

TJ scholars have also explored how the provision of reparations and other mechanisms intersects with victims’ attitudes about the state’s responsibility for violence and/or failure to protect (Brooks, 1999; Corntassel & Holder, 2008; Davis & Warner, 2007; Laplante & Theidon, 2007; Sundar, 2004). While the literature has largely described as problematic a state’s implementation of mechanisms that ignore or attempt to undermine claims about its culpability, there are few empirical data on how such cases influence victims’ sense of justice or attitudes about state responsibility. Sundar (2004) cautioned that when states use reparations to excuse past violations, they legitimize ongoing injustices. Davis and Warner (2007) argued that, in cases where the state bears significant responsibility for violence, such as Guatemala, independent judicial institutions like the Inter-American Court offer a better path, including for reparations.

Reconciliation and the Politics of Recognition

The seemingly simple notion that “victims . . . want to be recognized” (International Criminal Court, 2010) betrays the politics and power that render certain forms of victimization recognizable and others invisible (Dixon, 2015). It ignores the role that reparations can play as a “technology of truth” (Merry, 2006; Merry & Coutin, 2014), which produces official narratives of violence and official categories of victim identities. The right to provide reparations is the right to legitimately define a conflict and its victims. The act of receiving reparations, in turn, depends on the tacit acceptance of official definitions. Yet, the terms on which reparations are provided do not always reflect victims’ own self-conceptions of the violence they or their communities suffered. This establishes a fundamental tension between the power of reparations to recognize and the ways that people want to be recognized. Such “politics of recognition” (Fraser, 1999) is relevant to the design and provision of reparation in transitions from violence to peace.

One of the most contentious issues in designing reparations legislation is determining which victimizing acts count as reparable and which parties to a conflict can claim victim status. The definition of eligibility as set out in the U.N.’s Basic Principles is “potentially limitless” (Teitel, 2000, p. 134). Like development, reconstruction, and assistance, therefore, the provision of reparations requires targeting recipients for special treatment according to predefined criteria (de Greiff, 2009a; Dixon, 2015; Mansuri & Rao, 2004; Van Domelen, 2007). Also like these fields, the provision of reparations faces the inherent challenge that official targeting criteria do not necessarily match local criteria. Beneficiaries may contest the terms according to which they are recognized, or the very act of recognizing them may bring unwanted attention or stigma. The extensive literature on postconflict reconstruction highlights a pervasive risk of exacerbating victims’ vulnerability by targeting them for special treatment according to particular categories (Blattman & Annan, 2010; Conning & Kevane, 2002; Drumbl, 2012; Jaspars & Shoham, 1999; Stark, Boothby, & Ager, 2009; UNICEF, 2006, 2007).

While these are relatively well-established concerns among development scholars and practitioners, particularly in postconflict contexts, the “politics of recognition” is arguably more pronounced for reparations, which distinguish themselves from development through the very act of recognition. On the ground, recognition is experienced through the particular means through which victims are identified, screened, informed, and, ultimately, provided an award. Where beneficiaries of reparation do not participate in judicial proceedings, which in contexts of mass violence is the majority of cases, such targeting procedures will likely constitute the primary means through which victims experience the act of recognition.

The little available empirical research focused specifically on how the recognition afforded by reparations affects recipients is mixed. Danieli (2009) documented how recipients of individual reparations in Germany felt partly healed through the state’s recognition. Yet, in settings where countries are still emerging from conflict, where crime and insecurity are still high, recipients of financial compensation tend not to tell their neighbors or family members about their awards (Colvin, 2006; Pham et al., 2016). This is despite that fact that states may hope that beneficiaries of reparations will publicly identify as such. Colombia, for example, considers its recognition of citizens a central pillar of its reparations program, with each recipient receiving a “Letter of Dignity” expressing the state’s recognition of their suffering and commitment to their repair.

At the ICC, furthermore, the Trust Fund for Victims does not recognize former child soldiers in its assistance projects, opting instead for the industry standard in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs of blending former child soldiers with “orphans and vulnerable children” (UNICEF, 1997, 2006, 2007) so communities do not interpret certain interventions as “child soldier projects” (Trust Fund for Victims, 2010). De Greiff’s (2009b) review of the connections between reparations and DDR programs pointed to similar precautions. Furthermore, a high-level United Nations panel convened in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to assess the possibilities of reparations for victims of sexual violence found that the stigma stemming from rape and other forms of sexual violence can be as grave as the original act itself, or even more harmful in certain respects (United Nations, 2011). The panel cited one director of a local organization for survivors of sexual violence, who asked that assistance not be targeted only to her clients but be spread out more broadly so as to help them shed the stigma of their harm. This reflects Rubio-Marín’s (2007) warning that reparations programs discriminate against women when victims must testify and identify publicly as victims, and it also highlights that stigma remains a risk even at the level of implementation.

The politics of recognition also extends beyond the risk of stigma and unwanted attention. When reparations are provided according to certain official narratives of violence, they clash with local narratives and the power relations that underline them. When recipients accept reparations awards, they are also tacitly accepting an official vision of conflict, which may serve to reproduce the status quo ante rather than fundamentally transform society. This is true for both domestic reparations programs, where the point is perhaps more obvious, and for international criminal reparations. Transitional states can use reparations programs to designate certain forms of violence as legitimate violations of rights and others as illegitimate. At the ICC, trials have tended to follow ethnic framings, where violence is seen as motivated primarily by intergroup conflict and not, for example, by economic or geopolitical concerns (Dixon, 2015). The ethnic element of violence in these cases is certainly pertinent, but the trials have thus far underemphasized the extent to which ethnic differences and identities are instrumentalized, politicized, and militarized by local and national leaders (on the instrumentalization of ethnicity in general, see Blattman & Miguel, 2010; on the instrumentalization of ethnicity in the DRC, see Tamm, 2013).

Reparations and Assistance

In contexts of mass violence, reparations programs will likely always fall short of addressing the full extent of crimes committed, rights violated, and harm suffered. Furthermore, there will likely always be immediate needs that fall outside the boundaries of any given reparations program. Most postconflict reparations programs, both in domestic programs and at the ICC, therefore utilize some combination of reparations and “assistance.”

In theory, reparations derive significant symbolic value because they are not assistance (Dixon, 2016). Compared to reconstruction, victims’ assistance, and development aid, reparations may look very similar in form, but are provided on fundamentally different grounds. Where the former are provided on the basis of need or vulnerability, reparations are provided on the basis of rights, and reflect the official recognition (whether by the state or international community) that rights have been violated (or not protected). Reparations and assistance can be distinguished in legal and TJ scholarship according to several principles, as noted: responsibility, recognition, process, form, and impact. While responsibility and recognition imply the strongest distinctions, most scholarship also sees reparations and assistance as provided through distinct processes of screening and implementation, via distinct forms, and to different ends: justice in the case of reparations, welfare in the case of assistance.

Yet, the extent to which reparations and assistance are experienced differently by those who receive them is an open empirical question. While seemingly a technical issue, the juxtaposition of reparations and assistance exposes fundamental tensions between theories of the TJ process and victims’ experience of TJ in practice. Reparations and assistance can be identical in form, lead to similar ends, be distributed through similar screening and implementation processes, and, ultimately, impart similar feelings of recognition and notions of responsibility (Dixon, 2016, p. 89).

Despite such conceptual fuzziness, reparations and assistance are often, perhaps increasingly, used in combination. The approaches to reparation used by the ICC and Colombian state are two contemporary examples. Peru, Nepal, and Indonesia also serve as examples. Together, the examples suggest three models according to which reparations and assistance may be combined in practice: a subsistence model, where assistance is seen to help victims achieve a more stable situation before they can fully benefit from reparations; a related, but unique, interim relief model, where assistance is used to respond to victims’ immediate needs as they wait for reparations; and a “Swiss cheese” model, where assistance is used to fill in the holes of a legally restricted reparations process.

In a subsistence model, adopted in Colombia, for example, assistance helps victims secure their survival and sustenance so as to fully benefit from reparations (Gaviria, 2015). This implies that reparations are transformative and long-term in their impact and that victims cannot fully benefit from them until they have achieved a certain level of subsistence. Similar to the subsistence approach, the interim relief model is based on the notion that because reparations can take a long time to access, victims need some form of support while they wait. This model is present in the ICC’s legal framework and in Nepal’s Interim Relief Program. At the ICC, though, it only exists in theory. Rather, the Trust Fund for Victims’ assistance mandate has been deployed by the Chambers more in the fashion of a Swiss cheese model to target people and communities harmed by conflict-related acts who fall outside the scope of the Prosecutor’s case strategy.

Notably, while subsistence and interim relief models both assume that recipients distinguish between reparations and assistance, and that programs should actively differentiate between them, the Swiss cheese model presents a case where the differences may be intentionally blurred. In Lubanga, for example, the Appeals Chamber wrote that, “The meaningfulness of reparation programs with respect to a community may depend on inclusion of all its members, irrespective of their link with the crimes for which Mr Lubanga was found guilty” (Reparations Judgment, Appeals Chamber, Lubanga, March 3, 2015, para. 215). As such, the judgment implied, affected communities may be better off not knowing what is received as assistance and what is received as reparation. From this perspective, the ICC could seemingly recognize deserving victims who were not recognized at trial through the provision of assistance. While the Appeals Chamber reiterated the principle that guilty perpetrators are liable only for harm stemming from crimes of which they are found guilty, and also noted the risk that assistance and reparations “may be blurred in a manner prejudicial to the rights of the convicted person” (Reparations Judgment, Appeals Chamber, Lubanga, March 3, 2015, paras 181–182), the Swiss cheese model suggests important questions about whether reparations programs may ultimately be well served by less distinction from assistance under certain circumstances.

Institutionalizing and Implementing Reparations

Like aid, assistance, and development projects, reparations depend on institutional frameworks for their implementation, including screening, assessment, outreach, distribution, follow-up, and more. The more multidimensional the awards, the more complex the institutions required to realize them. When not limited to financial compensation, for example, reparations programs depend on implementing partners to provide goods and services to beneficiaries. In postconflict settings, where many eligible victims likely do not have the required documentation to prove age or identity, the task is further complicated.

Countries have established various procedures for collecting and assessing information about potential victims to determine their eligibility. South Africa limited reparation to those who had testified during the TRC (Backer, 2010). Colombia established a data-processing center dedicated exclusively to receiving and processing applications according to certain tests that the alleged crimes suffered by an applicant took place in the context of the country’s armed conflict. In court-ordered, international criminal reparations, there is an additional issue to consider in the relationship between the legal body ordering the award and the implementing body charged with carrying it out. Questions include: To what level of detail should a chamber design the order for an award? To what extent should the implementing body be overseen to ensure compliance with legal intent? There is, however, little in the way of practical experience to provide guidance, but the ICC’s experience with its first reparations order, in Lubanga, has proven instructive.

At the ICC, the Trial Chamber proposed only “principles” in the Court’s first reparations decision (Reparations Decision, Trial Chamber, Lubanga, August 7, 2012). Later, though, the Appeals Chamber further ordered the Trust Fund for Victims to provide specific details about design, including a list of victims potentially eligible for reparation and an assessment of the extent of harm suffered. The Trust Fund then filed for leave to appeal when its response was deemed insufficient, which the Trial Chamber in turn denied, noting that the Fund did not have locus standi to make such a request. It was, rather, merely an implementing body (Denial Leave to Appeal, Trial Chamber, Lubanga, March 4, 2016, para. 16–17). This back and forth underscores two broad challenges for reparations programs.

First, implementing bodies may not have the specific forms of expertise required, such as victim mapping or consultation, or may disagree with legal bodies about which forms of expertise matter. The Trust Fund for Victims, for example, has stressed its “field-based” expertise and has worked with country-based partners who come largely from development and humanitarian fields (Dixon, 2016; Trust Fund for Victims, 2010). The partners are experienced in working with vulnerable populations in postconflict settings, but they do not necessarily have experience with the strict eligibility and harm assessment requirements required by reparations programs. The Trust Fund, for example, argued that it could not follow through with the Chamber’s order to identify victims, calling the approach overly “formal” (Additional Information, TFV, Lubanga, June 7, 2016, para. 62).

Second, victims’ attitudes toward the reparations they receive are heavily influenced by the process through which they receive them (Dixon, 2015; Leyh, 2011; Pham et al., 2016; REDRESS, 2003). Relevant factors include the means through which they are identified and targeted as well as the forms of outreach used to contact them and explain the basis for their awards. The more these factors reflect processes from the development and humanitarian fields, the more reparations may be confused with assistance and the less potent may be their effect. The experience that victims have of the reparative process, ultimately, depends on the successful coordination of design, outreach, implementation, and oversight.

Future Research on Postconflict Reparations

The expansion of reparations programs around the world presents both an opportunity and a need to engage in more empirical, multilevel, and comparative research into how reparations programs are designed, implemented, and experienced. The key variables that deserve attention and the methods best suited to assessing them, as well as, the inherently personal and public dimensions of reparations, will necessitate a diversity of research disciplines, methodologies, and geographies.

Key Variables

First, further research is needed on the role of reparations when implemented alone or in concert with other mechanisms in transitions from violence to peace, especially truth commissions and trials. While there is a relatively clear picture of the risks entailed when reparations do not meet expectations set during truth and reconciliation processes, there are interesting cases, as in Colombia, where reparations were implemented prior to any national truth process. Do truth commissions potentially undermine reparations programs? Alternatively, are reparations programs without a robust truth or trial component less transformative?

Such research can also help address the dilemma of TJ mechanisms competing with each other for scarce resources. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Special Court cost about $300 million in total, while the reparations program sponsored by the United Nations’ Peacebuilding Fund has cost $4.55 million (International Organization for Migration, 2012). Furthermore, while the ICC has been celebrated as the first of the ad-hoc tribunals to implement a robust victims’ regime, the €1 million reserved by the Trust Fund for Victims for reparations in Lubanga, which officially started in 2009, is just 0.7% of the Court’s approved operating budget for 2016 (€139.59 million; Assembly of States Parties, 2015). How do such resource allocations affect the local perception and experience of these justice “packages” when so much more is spent on the trial process than on reparations programs?

Second, TJ scholarship has not systematically assessed how the different kinds and phases of “transition” from violence to peace influence the implementation and experience of TJ processes (de Greiff, 2006b, p. 459; Pham et al., 2016, p. 12). In a number of countries where reparations are currently being implemented, or soon will be, conflict is still ongoing, including most situations before the ICC. In such contexts, where the transition from violence to peace is protracted, recipients of reparations may be hesitant to publicly self-identify as victims, which has implications for multiple reparation outcomes. What does this imply for reparations’ impact on reconciliation and attitudes toward the state? Does the restoration of civic trust, or recognition as a citizen, depend upon recipients of individual reparations telling their neighbors about their payments?

Third, many of the fundamental questions about reparations, including their individual-level impact, can be answered not only through cross-national research but also through comparisons where reparations and assistance are provided in the same contexts and to the same beneficiaries. Because so many national and international reparations programs combine the two forms of support, either in succession or in tandem, TJ scholars can draw on these “natural experiments” to test the supposed symbolism of reparations that makes them powerful. Does a state’s acknowledgment of accountability in the context of victims’ conflict-related harms influence the reparative process differently than its acknowledgment of vulnerability implied by assistance? In terms of process, how do the different models of combining reparations and assistance—subsistence, interim relief, and Swiss cheese—influence their respective reception? Perhaps more fundamentally, how do victims’ consciousness of the reparative process relate to the outcomes they experience as individuals, community members, and citizens?

Fourth, and relatedly, how do the different forms through which reparations and assistance are provided influence outcomes? While the available research paints a relatively detailed picture of compensation, and the varieties through which it is provided (alone, in combination with services, as lump sums or pensions, etc.), the emergence of complex programs that appear holistic on paper poses important questions about how compensation works in tandem with other forms of support. Fifth, while such holistic programs include significant lip service to notions of local ownership, consultation, and conflict sensitivity, the extent to which victims are meaningfully involved and vulnerability adequately managed remains an open question for most programs, with existing evidence pointing to the contrary.

Sixth, there are valuable opportunities to compare administrative and judicial programs, including where the state and/or nonstate groups are implicated, to assess how the different notions of responsibility and recognition implied by each influence experiences of the reparative process. Where programs bar recipients from pursuing judicial redress, for example, do such restrictions limit the reparative effect? What difference does the state’s own role in the perpetration of violence make? Seventh and finally, there are important lessons to be learned through the comparison of the often subtle justice frames implied in particular reparations programs: reparative, restorative/corrective, distributive, and procedural. In the few cases where reparations take on a distributive role, and/or target violations of economic rights, for example, do recipients experience them differently from more traditional reparations provided only in response to political violence, and are the effects as transformative as proponents of such an approach attest?


TJ research is driven by a number of methodological tensions: between positivist impact assessment and normative evaluations (Dancy, 2010), between legal and nonlegal disciplines (Bell, 2009), and, even within the “nonlegal” social sciences, between the different levels at which impact and outcomes are defined and tested (Pham et al., 2016).

Cross-national databases that target or include reparations programs are emerging through initiatives like the Transitional Justice Research Collaborative. While no findings on reparations per se have been published, the database includes all domestic legislation pertaining to state-based reparations programs. Such a database can be used for cross-national comparison of reparations’ state-level effects. At the same time, as Mallinder and O’Rourke (2016) noted, caution is warranted when utilizing such databases since they entail diverse approaches to research design, which can lead to divergent findings.

Perception surveys remain an important tool, but a perception-based approach to reparations research also poses ontological challenges for TJ researchers: can survival, livelihood, and justice concerns be meaningfully compared to each other? To what extent should reparations be designed according to the development and security concerns of their intended beneficiaries? In Colombia, for example, victims and nonvictims did not express recognizably different views about TJ mechanisms (Nussio, Rettberg, & Ugarriza, 2015). The perceptions framework still often promotes “global” narratives of development and peacebuilding, reinforced by the international organizations, which can fund surveys and have their own institutional interests. In this sense, the Everyday Peace Indicators approach remains a promising avenue.

Qualitative research on the lived experience of conflict and reparative justice remains essential to the study of reparations in transitions from conflict to peace. Only in-depth fieldwork can do justice to the particularities of conflict in such varied contexts. In addition to the ethnographies and interviews that are the traditional terrain of anthropologists and social scientists, there are also opportunities for deliberate forums—structured focused groups that occur over several days or longer—to inform research on reparations. The forums build on Sen’s (2001) notion of deliberative democracy, leading participants through a guided exercise of collective reflection on particular issues, with the goal of arriving at informed opinions, choices, and priorities.

Finally, as Mac Ginty and Firchow (2016, p. 321) also attested, even research rooted in notions of the local and “everyday” still entails a certain “post-colonial angst.” In addition to disciplinary and methodological diversity, reparations research requires continued and strengthened geographical diversity.


Reparations derive their symbolic power from the law, which is an imperfect tool for responding to the varied forms of violence experienced in conflict, the massive number of victims who are affected, and the diverse, sometimes contradictory, priorities and needs that they hold. In such contexts, there is an inherent tension between expanding reparations programs to be inclusive and adaptable and preserving their fundamental distinction as a justice process. This is a difficult balance to strike, but the frameworks and questions presented in this article offer useful guidance.

The lens of economic violence, with its links to positive peace, is useful for articulating the role of reparations in postconflict transitions, offering conceptual expansion beyond TJ’s traditional concerns for political violence without delving too far into the customary terrain of development or reconstruction. Reparations provided for harms stemming from both political and economic violence can be sensitive to power, politics, and the lived experience of conflict without losing the legal and symbolic dimensions that make them unique. Future research, however, must test this claim.

The specific mechanisms through which the inward and outward feelings and attitudes and broader social changes that reparations are expected to produce remain undertheorized, in large part because of a lack of empirical evidence about how they are implemented and experienced. Developments in the practice of reparations, however, have created new opportunities for human rights and TJ research. Questions about the particular variables that drive intended and unintended outcomes represent the next frontier for researchers interested in the role of reparations in the transition from violence to peace.


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