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Process Pluralism in Transitional-Restorative Justice

Lessons from Dispute Resolution for Cultural Variations in Goals beyond Rule of Law and Democracy Development (Argentina and Chile)

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2015
Keywords transitional justice, conflict resolution, process pluralism, cultural variation, individual and collective justice
Authors Carrie Menkel-Meadow
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article reviews some of the key issues in transitional justice process and institutional design, based on my research and experience working and living in several post-conflict societies, and suggests that cultural and political variations in transitional justice design, practices, and processes are necessary to accomplish plural goals. The idea of process pluralism, derived from the more general fields of conflict resolution and ‘alternative dispute resolution’ in legal contexts, is an essential part of transitional justice, where multiple processes may occur simultaneously or in sequence over time (e.g. truth and reconciliation processes, with or without amnesty, prosecutions, lustration and/or more local legal and communitarian processes), depending on both individual and collective preferences and resources. Transitional justice is itself ‘in transition’ as iterative learning has developed from assessment of different processes in different contexts (post-military dictatorships, civil wars, and international and sub-national conflicts). This article draws on examples from Argentina’s and Chile’s emergence from post-military dictatorships to describe and analyze a plurality of processes, including more formal governmental processes, but also those formed by civil society groups at sub-national levels. This article suggests that ‘democracy development’ and legalistic ‘rule of law’ goals and institutional design may not necessarily be the only desiderata in transitional justice, where more than the ‘legal’ and ‘governmental’ is at stake for more peaceful human flourishing. To use an important concept from dispute resolution, the “forum must fit the fuss”, and there are many different kinds of ‘fusses’ to be dealt with in transitional justice, at different levels of society – more than legal and governmental but also social, cultural and reparative.


Carrie Menkel-Meadow
Carrie Menkel-Meadow is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science, University of California, Irvine.
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