To advance ongoing quality assurance, knowledge management efforts and in recognition of growing demand for UN support to transitional justice and reconciliation efforts in conflict-affected countries, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs’ (DPPA) Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) commissioned a thematic review of PBF supported transitional justice projects in the past five years (2014-2018). The review identifies good practices and lessons learned in an effort to inform future PBF investment decisions and help inform programmatic approaches in support of transitional justice measures.
Based on document review and key informant interviews the review analyzed 22 projects from eleven countries (Burundi, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sri Lanka,
The Gambia, Yemen) totaling the allocation of $ 39,620,878 to nine UN agencies funds and programs (UNDP, OHCHR, UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, FAO, IOM, UNODC, UNESCO and three CSOs (Search for Common Ground, Humanity & Inclusion and National Peace Council).
The projects under review demonstrated relevance through addressing drivers of conflict as identified by a conflict analysis and supported transitional justice interventions across all pillars. Four quarters of the projects did include gender considerations in their analysis. Fund recipients, e.g. from Sri Lanka, Colombia and The Gambia, welcomed the fast, catalytic, gap-filling and risk-tolerant nature of PBF-support to the establishment or strengthening of transitional justice mechanisms.
The 13 out of the 22 projects which had finished their implementation have largely achieved their intended outcomes, thus demonstrating satisfying levels of effectiveness. PBF successfully supported national consultations in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Sri Lanka, including more than 9,000 Guineans and more than 7,000 Sri Lankans in these participatory processes.
Transitional justice is often conceptualized to rest on four pillars: truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. Two projects have provided support to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions with positive to exceptional results. In Mali, the project built capacities of the Comission Nationale Justice et Réconciliation (CVJR) to strengthen the gender dimension of its work, while in Colombia the project contributed to the transformation of the Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición (CEV) into a fully-functioning State institution.
Justice, in the form of criminal accountability, featured successfully in PBF-supported interventions in Guatemala through support to high-impact criminal cases, such as the Sepur Zarco case, addressing the systematic rape and exploitation of indigenous Q’eqchi’ women in the 1980s.
Reparations played a major role in projects in Guatemala and Colombia, comprising both individual and collective reparations. The support to the reintegration of children and adolescents captured by FARC in Colombia had a catalytic impact on the public discourse.
Many projects supported elements of the guarantee of non-recurrence, most often through institutional reforms. However, two projects in Burundi and Sri Lanka focus on young people as change agents and develop a potentially interesting bottom-up approach without a formal engagement with existing TJ-mechanisms, which needs to be further developed.
Some of the projects, e.g. in Guatemala, DRC and Sri Lanka adopted an approach trying to address all four pillars simultaneously. While it is positive that these projects attempt to implement a holistic approach to transitional justice, the review considers that often such projects run the risk of spreading resources too thin and would benefit from a clearer focus and/or sequencing.
Given the relatively short duration of PBF-projects (12-36 months), expectations regarding impact-level results were limited. Some countries, such as Mali, Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Guinea-Bissau did, however, report some contributions of projects to aspects such as recognition of victims, increased trust in state institutions, reconciliation and the strengthening of the Rule of law.
The participation of victims, of women and to a smaller degree of young people played an important role in the design and implementation of projects. These promising attempts at fostering inclusion could further be strengthened: The victim-centered approach could be improved through including a broad diversity of victims even earlier in project design and implementation. In regard to gender, it will be important to highlight even further the particular role of women as leaders and change agents in transitional justice processes. Lastly, there are good reasons to further develop a youth and child-rights based focus due to the transmission of transgenerational trauma and the intergenerational dimensions of trust and reconciliation.
The projects under review are almost exclusively implemented by more than one organization (RUNO/NUNO). This joint implementation has shown potential benefits, such as harnessing the comparative advantages of each organization for more holistic transitional justice responses. However, it could be improved through further investments in joint analysis and planning and strengthening not only the joint implementation within projects but also among projects (programmatic approach).
Sustainability is concerned with the question whether the benefits of an activity are likely to continue beyond donor funding. Most projects fell short in regard to the mobilization of funding from donors other than the PBF, which is a shortcoming in light of the catalytic nature of the Fund. A more successful strategy of projects has been to envision the integration of certain activities in the regular state budget.
However, it seems that this strategy has more potential in upper-middle income economies such as Colombia, Guatemala and Sri Lanka (assuming the political will to do so) than in low-income economies such as Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and The Gambia.
The political nature of transitional justice interventions and resistance faced in local contexts was brought up as the key challenge by key informants. Given that transitional justice is inherently a field of the political contestation this should not be surprising. Seizing windows of opportunity based on a solid conflict analysis, identifying allies based on a stakeholder analysis and forging complementary between political dialogue involving UN leadership and technical programmatic assistance present avenues that have successfully been used to navigate these challenges.
Programming and monitoring tools should be equipped to flexibly react to changes in the political context.
The review formulated a number of strategic recommendations for the PBSO aimed at continuing or scaling-up support to transitional justice based on nuanced funding considerations for different scenarios. Substantively, the PBF should build on promising practices of further strengthening national ownership and the inclusivity of TJ-processes. More robust monitoring and evaluation approaches would help to create feedback loops and to adapt projects, while building the foundation for deeper learning if accompanied by appropriate knowledge management components. In regard to quality control for TJ-projects, the review proposes a checklist (Annex 1) that should be tested and further developed to serve as an entry point for standard procedures in the approval of TJ-projects.
In addition, the review formulated detailed recommendations for RUNOs/NUNOs, which aim at balancing the ambitions of a holistic TJ-support with the realities of limited resources in terms of time, funds and capacities in order to attain deeper rather than broader results. The recommendations focus on undertaking quality analysis of the political context as the foundation for simplified yet more focused project design. The project should strive to support locally owned processes through building capacity and the fostering inclusion, while being situated within a larger and coherent UN approach to transitional justice in the country.