In This Article Post-Conflict Reconciliation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Transitional Justice and Reconciliation in the Middle East and North Africa
  • National Reconciliation
  • Lustration and Vetting
  • Grassroots Initiatives
  • Religious Reconciliation/Interfaith Dialogue
  • Digital Sources

International Relations Post-Conflict Reconciliation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region
by
Amal Khoury
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0247

Introduction

While there is a growing consensus on the importance and necessity of reconciliation for achieving sustainable peace in societies emerging from conflict, there is no agreement on what it actually means or how it could be reached. Scholars and practitioners have defined reconciliation both as a process and a goal that occurs on different levels, individual, interpersonal, intergroup, institutional, national, and international. Simply defined, reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations. It involves developing a shared vision of an interdependent and fair society; acknowledging and dealing with the past; building positive relationships; changing cultures and attitudes that promote violence and divisions; and promoting substantial social, economic, and political structural changes. Lederach and Galtung, two of the main scholar practitioners in the field of peace and conflict studies, linked reconciliation to the concept of positive peace and emphasized the importance of relationships and healing in post-conflict societies. Reconciliation, which remains a contested concept in the debate on transitional justice and is very difficult to measure empirically, is central to conflict transformation. There are different mechanisms for reconciliation involving retributive justice (trials), truth telling (truth and reconciliation commissions), amnesties, reparations, apologies, and forgiveness, to name a few. This bibliography focuses on post-conflict reconciliation efforts in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The history and experience of the MENA countries with reconciliation is diverse, as will become clear from the literature. It also has been limited and faces several challenges.

General Overviews

Reconciliation is perceived by a growing number of scholars and practitioners to be a necessary requirement for lasting peace in divided societies. Fischer 2011 presents a multilevel process of reconciliation to deal effectively with the legacies of the past and prevent a relapse into violence. Lederach 1997 and Daly and Sarkin 2006 discuss reconciliation as a process through which societies move toward a shared future. Kriesberg 2004 identifies four dimensions of reconciliation in this process of conflict transformation and peace-building in postwar societies. Bloomfield, et al. 2003 and Daly and Sarkin 2004 provide accounts of the challenges to reconciliation, and Quinn 2009 warns against the danger of one-size-fits-all approach in transitional contexts. Abu-Nimer 2001 provides a comprehensive theoretical analysis of reconciliation, supported by practical case studies of approaches and mechanisms from around the world. Together, these works provide a wide overview of the range of issues raised by promoting and understanding reconciliation in post-conflict contexts.

  • Abu-Nimer, Mohammed, ed. Reconciliation, Justice and Coexistence: Theory and Practice. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2001.

    E-mail Citation »

    This volume provides a comprehensive examination of reconciliation, justice, and coexistence in the post-settlement context from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Contributors are scholars and practitioners who discuss pertinent questions about the political, socio-psychological, religious, institutional, judicial, therapeutic, and institutional dimensions of reconciliation. These questions include issues of reconstruction, coexistence, restoration, justice, forgiveness, education, and rituals. Selective case studies include Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Israel, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Rwanda.

  • Bloomfield, David, Teresa Barnes, and Luc Huyse, eds. Reconciliation after Violent Conflict: A Handbook. Stockholm: International IDEA, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    This handbook provides a comprehensive look at reconciliation as a process and offers ways of promoting it within the larger process of democratization. It looks at the complex challenges and possibilities of reconciliation in a transitional context by analyzing the people involved (victims and offenders), instruments of reconciliation (healing, justice, truth telling, and reparation), and the role of the international community.

  • Daly, E., and J. Sarkin. “Too Many Questions, Too Few Answers: Reconciliation in Transitional Societies.” Columbia Human Rights Law Review 35 (2004): 661–728.

    E-mail Citation »

    While acknowledging the appeal and promise of reconciliation in transitional societies, the authors explore questions about reconciliation and issues facing governments in the pursuit and promotion of such reconciliation, which they believe are not being adequately considered and addressed by policy makers. The authors present a multitude of questions (psychological, political, economic, and social) that need to be addressed to understand the context where the transition is occurring and promote a more effective reconciliation process.

  • Daly, E., and J. Sarkin. Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    The book presents an effort to understanding reconciliation as a means of transformation and an engine for change in societies recovering from destructive conflict. The authors argue that reconciliation requires fundamental political and economic reform along with personal healing. Looking systematically at the political dimensions of reconciliation, it shows how and why this process works in societies emerging from violent conflict, oppression, and genocide and moving toward peace and stability.

  • Fischer, Martina. “Transitional Justice and Reconciliation: Theory and Practice.” In Advancing Conflict Transformation: The Berghof Handbook II. Edited by B. Austin, M. Fischer, and H. J. Giessmann, 406–430. Framington Hills, MI: Barbara Budrich, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    The handbook reviews the debates on transitional justice and reconciliation to assess the practical approaches to these concepts. It shows that, even though the debates on transitional justice and reconciliation are related, they are not identical. It outlines reconciliation as a multilevel and multi-actor process alongside conflict transformation. While it is hard to predict the impact of transitional justice mechanisms, the author advocates for a combination of approaches and activities to promote reconciliation and stable peace in postwar societies.

  • Kriesberg, Louis. “Comparing Reconciliation Actions within and between Countries.” In From Conflict to Reconciliation. Edited by Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, 81–110. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195166439.003.0005E-mail Citation »

    The author identifies four dimensions of reconciliation essential for conflict transformation and peace-building in postwar societies: shared truth, justice (may take the forms of restitution or compensation and punishment), regard (recognizing the humanity of the other), and security (both personal and collective). He examines how those dimensions are often contradictory at a given time and have different impacts on domestic and international conflicts based on society contexts. The author supports his theoretical arguments with various empirical examples.

  • Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1997.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this book, Lederach introduces his integrated framework to peace-building and puts reconciliation as its central component. He provides a conceptual framework for reconciliation where relationships and encounter are important. Reconciliation creates a space where truth, mercy, justice, and peace meet. It also can contribute to innovative ways in which the painful past is addressed and a shared future is created. Reconciliation brings in the subjective dimension of the experience that is usually lacking in traditional diplomacy.

  • Quinn, Johanna, ed. Reconciliation(s): Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Societies. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book evaluates instruments and initiatives of reconciliations in different contexts. Criticizing the one-size-fits all approach to addressing post-conflict situations, it explores the traditional or indigenous approaches to transitional justice and reconciliation in several case studies, including Morocco, Israel, and Lebanon in the MENA region. While the authors do not agree on a single definition of reconciliation, they concur that it is a vital goal of transitional justice and plays an important role in building relationships of trust and cohesion.

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